Two weeks after Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) began its 2017 fall semester in Dominica, Hurricane Maria hit. RUSM activated a multifaceted academic continuity plan that included the successful evacuation of more than 1,300 members of it campus community in one week and the resumption of its medical sciences course of instruction on a ship in the following four weeks.

The Dominica Medical Board and the US Department of Education recently approved the University resuming the Fall 2017 semester on the vessel.

“There were several factors considered when determining the best option for academic continuity,” says William F. Owen, Jr., MD, FACP, RUSM’s Dean and Chancellor. “The most important factor was ensuring that we maintain the quality and rigor of our programs of medical instruction at RUSM.” According to the dean, other considerations included keeping the students’ testing milestones on track, minimizing disruption to the students’ timeline for medical school, keeping the RUSM community in a single location, and balancing schoolwork and recreation for its students.

The medical sciences course of instruction began Monday, Oct. 23 on a uniquely fitted cruise liner docked off the coast of St. Kitts in the West Indies. The temporary arrangement enabled RUSM students to resume their course of instruction as quickly as possible. The ship contains needed instruction, studying, dining, and recreation spaces including a recently constructed 18,000 sq. ft. academic suite. Lodging is available aboard the ship, as well.

In addition to RUSM satisfying its own criteria for the resumption of its medical course of instruction, the university had to ensure it continued to meet the rigorous standards set by the Dominica Medical Board as well as the US Department of Education to remain eligible to participate in the US Federal Direct Student Loan Program. The United States Department of Education, through its National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA), has determined that the accreditation standards of the Dominica Medical Board are comparable with those used to evaluate programs leading to the MD degree in the United States accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). Both accrediting bodies have approved RUSM’s temporary arrangement to provide medical instruction on a modified cruise ship.

“We are pleased to have retained the important regulatory approvals,” says Dean Owen. “Our students can rest assured knowing we are offering the same high quality educational standards that attracted them to RUSM.”