TEXAN VISITS RAROTONGA MEDICAL SCHOOL SITE

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By Charles Pitt

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (The Cook Islands Herald, April 1) – American Dr. Larry Sands who has just established the South Pacific Medical School on Rarotonga is also a Baptist pastor.

According to Dr Sands, the medical school is a "Christian Medical School" which will operate under a Christian code of ethics. The school however, will be non-denominational and persons of all faiths will be welcome except, as Dr Larry puts it, the "Moonies."

Dr Sands is the founder and chief operating officer of "Med School Group LLC," based in San Antonio, Texas.

[PIR editor’s note: According to a story published last month in the San Antonio Express-News, Sands plans to open an "offshore" medical school in July across the Texas border in Mexico called the International Medical School. Sands, reportedly disciplined twice by the Texas Board of Medical Examiners, got a charter in the Cook Islands in order to operate his medical schools, a necessary credential in order to be recognized by the World Health Organization.]

The Rarotonga school will operate out of the Rakahanga Hostel and on Monday afternoon, in a brief ceremony, Dr Sands' son Larry Jr., handed over a cheque for NZ$50,000 to Rakahanga community representative, Temu Okotai.

According to Okotai, the money is for the first six monthly lease period after which the lease will roll over at six monthly intervals for the next two years.

Okotai says the money will help pay off the loan on the hostel.

The medical school will have exclusive use of all the facilities including the accommodation, which will be for the students. During the two year period, the school will be looking to build its own premises.

Dr Sands said students will begin classes on 29 May 2006. They will be taught basic science only. There will be a minimum of 10 students and no more than 25 per semester. Over the 72 week basic science course, about 100 students will attend classes. Following this students then undergo another 72 weeks' study at an overseas school.

The school is targeted at mainly USA students but students from other countries may be accepted. Most students from the USA will have completed high school at age 18 and have studied another four years for a pre-med degree. They will pay a fee of US$39,000. This is about one fifth of the cost of a four-year degree programme in the USA.

Dr Sands says Cook Islanders may attend the school free of charge, on scholarship. However, if it is necessary to bring Cook Islands students up to standard, free pre-med courses will be available.

Two to three professors will be brought in from the USA to teach at the school.

Dr Sands says the Cook Islands government has been very supportive. The school is yet to be recognized by the World Health Organisation (WHO). At present, Dr Sands has been purchasing vehicles and other equipment. His Cook Islands contact is Lily Henderson.

Despite some skepticism among U.S. medical personnel over his plans, Dr Sands has his supporters and Sands himself is confident the Rarotonga school will achieve success and credibility.

April 3, 2006

The Cook Islands Herald: http://www.ciherald.co.ck/

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