Medical students in Mexico Medical students in Mexico: some important differences in training.

MX medical training: there are differences

Things you should know about health care in Mexico

Many Americans come to Mexico expecting that a dermatologist in Mexico received the same training as a dermatologist in the U.S.


We assume a doctor is a doctor and skin is skin on both sides of the border. That is a big assumption and it is well worth taking the time to get an overview of medical training and qualifying criteria in the U.S. versus Mexico.

Surprisingly there are more similarities than differences but the differences are important and are a reflection of cultural and historical realities in the north versus the south.

Training begins right after high school in Mexico and in the U.S. it is only after completion of a baccalaureate. This means that Mexican medical students are younger throughout all major milestones of medical training.

They are responsible for all aspects of patient care earlier in their life and in training. We have both worked with young graduates in Latin America and older graduates in the United States.

Keeping in mind that this is a limited and biased study of a few American and Mexican students, we find pluses and minuses in both systems.

In broad strokes the Mexican medical students tend to accept criticism and work hard at improving technique and care of their patients. Perhaps because students in the U.S. have more life experience, they may mistake it for medical experience and thus are harder to convince to follow protocol and not question orders.


One of the ways the Mexican government meets the demands for universal health care is to require all medical graduates to serve a year in government-supported networks of clinics serving remote or disadvantaged communities.

After this final year the medical student becomes a doctor and can either do a residency or go straight into practice. Because the residencies are very competitive and represent several more years of low-paying work, a greater percentage of medical school graduates do not pursue specialty training and remain in general practice.

Board certifications across the standard “specialties” are very similar in the U.S. and in Mexico. Specialty training here is at least three years, with many specialties requiring up to eight.

The training and certification processes are becoming more and more uniform in the two countries.

Patient survival is the ultimate measure of the quality of care. In Mexico, as in the U.S., patient survival is directly related to the treating physician’s training and education. This means completing a residency as well as engaging in post-graduate medical education.

Compared to the U.S., quality control of private medical services in Mexico is slack. Once graduated either as a general practitioner or specialist, a doctor can set up office and never again read a medical journal or participate in continuing education.

Indeed some claim to be certified in a specialty when they are not. Poor oversight of private practice makes this more common in Mexico than in the United States.

So how can you make sure your chosen doctor is up to date in his field or truly qualified for the procedures he’s performing? What can you do to ensure that you are in the best possible hands?

The following websites contain information about physician training and certification. If your physician does not appear at these sites you are encouraged to ask them why not. They should always be able to document their training and continuing education.

• At you can check both the general medical and specialty license. Make sure your provider has a medical license, known as a cédula profesional. Note that the site is in Spanish and requires knowing the doctor’s complete name.

• Board examinations are called Exámenes del Consejo and each specialty has its own website. You can look up consejo mexicano de followed by the name of the specialty and check when a doctor obtained his boards and if he recertified. For example, Cardiology Boards are

• Recertification is important because it requires physicians to attend medical meetings, publish and teach, etc. This translates into better, more current practice. Most specialties require recertification every five years.

Also, many doctors are members of the American Academy of their specialty and thus meet the stringent training and education criteria required of their members.

Finally, physicians practicing in government certified hospitals, public or private, are required to have all their certification in order.

Carla Archer is a licensed and board certified (and recertified) dermatologist who lives in San Miguel de Allende. 

Deborah Bickel also lives in San Miguel de Allende and is the founder and principal of Be Well San Miguel patient advocacy services. She is an international health worker with a master’s degree in public health from the University of California at Berkeley and is a graduate of the Stanford University Primary Care Associate program. She has practiced medicine in the San Francisco Bay Area, Latin America and Africa.

Do you have a question related to obtaining health care in Mexico? Send them to and Deborah will do her best to answer them for you.

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  • Great report.

  • Voice Of Reason

    Very useful. Thank you!

  • James Smith

    LOL! For all of you gringos out there going to Mexico, traveling in Mexico, or living in Mexico who believe medical training, care and quality of medical services in Mexico are equal to what you will find in the States, I have an urgent proposition for you: I have an excellent piece of Pacific Ocean beach front property available for sale on very reasonable terms in the great state of Kansas. Call me. Let’s talk!

    • Rainy Weather

      Jimmy boy. I have no idea why you continue to read and comment here. Your feeling of American superiority shows your own inferior complexes. Desist and stick with reading Trump and Tea Party propaganda. Their supporters are older ignorant white folks like yourself.

      • James Smith

        LOL! Ya know dufus, social media is full of goofs such as you but this particular site seems to attract more than its share.

    • pedrochapala

      you’re full of shit yanqui imperialist running dog-SNORK!

      • James Smith

        Tell me where and where cholo.

        • pedrochapala

          i call bullshit that you have spent lotsa time in mexico. calling me cholo shows your ignorance of name calling, pinche pendejo gringo,jaime-SNORK!

          • PintorEnMexico

            What is a SNORK anyway? A cartoon character, the sound of milk exiting ones nose?? I’m genuinely curious…

          • pedrochapala

            it is a sneer and laugh combined a sound i generally make when dealing with idiots like jaime. my friends have heard me do it.

          • James Smith

            The dude with the big mouth hiding behind his mamas skirts while tapping out his tough guy insults . LOL!

    • PintorEnMexico

      What they said…

      • James Smith

        Sure…when you have the huevos to make it happen.

    • Three score and ten

      James, please stay north of the border. You will be happier and so will everyone down here.

      • James Smith

        It is likely that I have spent more time in Mexico and Latin America than have you and based upon comments from you and your ignoramus brethren, it is obvious I know the real situation in Mexico better than you. I never criticize the hard working Mexican people: only the frauds, criminals and political elites which you and yours love sucking up to. Get lost.

        • PintorEnMexico

          Aw bullshit jimmy boy. Doctors here ARE hard working Mexicans, yet you jump on this article to beat your chest about the superiority of the American system. You are willfully ignorant of how offensive your boring and predictable commentary is to the locals here, or you are just willfully offensive. Mexicans are justifiably proud of their medical system and the article doesn’t suggest that it’s superior to the US system. Sure there’s malpractice, as there is everywhere. But the point of this article was never to say that the Mexican system is better. You just have to pile on like some big ugly school yard bully picking on the little kid.

          On the issue of corruption, you harp and harp but again you are unaware of how offensive that sounds to local Mexicans. You seem incapable of empathically projecting yourself into a situation where a foreigner comes to live in the States and constantly gripes about how everything is better in their home. Mexicans have earned the right to complain about their government. They suffer the most. You are right, when the people can find a way to work around their corrupt officials, things will change. But even in the states, it took courageous prosecutors willing to risk all and stand up to the mob before things changed.

          Why not encourage every effort to combat corruption and the narcos. Why not recall that for many decades it was impossible to do business in any major US city without dealing with organized crime that enjoyed impunity until the government began to apply hard won prosecutorial tools?

          You cry offense over Spanish language posts here as if it’s your personal gated community in Florida. I shouldn’t even say anything about this because your own words cry out “James Smith (alias) is a dick.”

          Waiting for further insults. Do I paint latrines? You should make so much money painting….

  • MexicoKaren

    My experiences with doctors in Mexico have been uniformly positive in the ten years I have lived here. My observations are that (1) Mexican physicians are apparently taught to be less paternalistic and authoritative. I have yet to meet an arrogant physician here; and (2) the Mexican physicians who have treated me place more of the responsibility for my own well-being on my own shoulders. The doctrine of personal responsibility is strong here. They have always been willing to problem-solve with me instead of insisting that I accept their conclusions. And while physicians in Mexico enjoy a higher socioeconomic status than the general population, their incomes are relatively lower than their US counterparts, making them more accessible and approachable.

    • pedrochapala

      my experience with trained mexican doctors is better than those trained in the usa and canada

    • DonCuevas

      I would agree with MexicoKaren’s comments in general.Unfortunately, I have had arrogant and even obnoxiously authoritative medicos here. But they are outnumbered by wonderful doctors who treat me with respect and listen to my input. I am pleased to call the latter “amigos”.

      Don Cuevas

  • Terri Lane

    I have nothing but good to say about all of the doctors and dentists my husband and I have encountered through our years in Mexico. We now only have proceedures in the US if it is absolutly necessary. The doctors are kind, are not condescending, and are very well educatied in their fields. The are so much more respectful and we really feel like we are HEARD by them. Seriously, obamacare has ruined our health care experience in the states and so we just opened what we call our medical account and put the $2000.00 monthly premium that our rate went up to in that account and got a great expat plan with cigna for catastrophic care. I am SO happy to be done with US healthcare! And while I’m at it, the dentistry in MX is FAR superior to the us at a fraction of the cost. We have friends fly down and stay with us while they get their dental work done, be it a simple filling, a new or replacement crown or a full set of new teeth. They have all seen the light and we couldn’t be happier! I am happy to spend my medical dollars in MX.

  • Doug

    You did not mention the cost and complexity in obtaining confirmation that an MD has been certified in his/her specialty, using the website “cedulaprofesional……etc”

  • Michael Alt

    As a board certified physician/surgeon who practiced in the USA for 30 years and have lived in Mexico for the last 10 years, I may be able to offer an opinion from the Medical side. Be careful when picking a good, highly capable profesional in any highly technical field by nationality or humble,amiable, personality alone. Do you really care if the pilot of the Boeing 787 flying you back to the states is Mexican,American, Canadian, or worse, arrogant and makes a lot of money?? Or the lawyer who favorably settles your families’ estate or divorce, is humble and respectful?? I dont think Medical Schools, Dental schools, Law schools etc. anywhere screen for amiable,humble personalities. Do your homework and find out what kind of results and how happy the patients or clients are. Good luck and stay healthy

  • JG

    Deborah Bickel has no certification in Mexico and no cedula.

  • F.Jaime

    The site is free and very straightforward. Just type in the doctor’s complete name. For example, Juan Manuel García Pérez. Remember Mexicans use both the paternal (García in the example) and maternal (Pérez) surnames.

  • Mike Snyder

    I have seen excellent healthcare workers in both countries, and I have seen the other side as well. In Mexico, it depends upon where you happen to be just as much as it depends upon the degree of governmental oversight. Nearly two decades ago when I was involved in a battle with the Texas Department of Health concerning their refusal to enforce laws relating to the sale of used (and distressed) medical equipment, I went to Monterrey to access the database at El Norte. In the entire country I found two active cases of litigation involving medical malpractice. In the United States there are probably two medical malpractice lawsuits filed every minute. When we lived in Veracruz, locating a good dentist was an exercise in futility so I made regular trips to DF to see a pediatric dentist who had interned in Washington. An orthopedic “surgeon” in Veracruz erred in treating three fractured fingers which left my hand partially crippled. After an auto accident I was taken to a “hospital” that was beyond belief and virtually defies description. It was by far the worse I have ever seen in any country. When living in San Miguel a friend recommended a dentist in Leon who had worked for NASA. I received excellent care at the Hospital Civil in San Miguel where I was operated on under general anesthesia. My son was born there in 1988, and Dr. Hugo Rosas was as good as any physician I have ever known or worked with. It is anything but a simple issue, especially when the quality of pharmaceuticals is involved. Recommendations are important, so talk with former patients before making a decision.