Student Life: Foundations of Medicine – Dominica Campus


RUSM is located on the beautiful Caribbean island of Dominica. Known as the “Nature Island,” Dominica appeals to hikers, mountain bikers, beachcombers, scuba divers, and those who simply appreciate spectacular, exotic views. Twenty-nine miles long and sixteen miles wide, it lies at the top of the Windward Islands in the West Indies. The landscape of Dominica is one of lush foliage draping cloud-shrouded, dormant volcanic peaks. Beautiful beaches alternate with dramatic cliffs along the coastline, surrounded by crystalline blue water and stunning vistas.

The island is laced with rivers fed by up to 40 inches of annual rainfall on the coast, and up to 300 inches in the tropical rainforests of the interior. Dominica’s forests abound with rare birds, flowers and animals, including the world’s largest parrot, a beaver without a tail and a giant frog. Lovely waterfalls, underwater cliffs, caves and volcanic springs contribute to Dominica’s reputation as a preferred destination for eco-tourists seeking natural, unspoiled beauty.

The People of Dominica

Although Dominica is located in the Caribbean, it is not considered a resort island. Its culture showcases a meld of Kalinago people, French, British, American and African influences. Most of the island’s inhabitants speak English, though native Dominicans may also speak a French patois. The culture is friendly. Religion plays a central role in life on the island.

The local economy relies primarily on fishing or farming. Dominicans live mostly in villages near the coastal areas, as the interior is too mountainous for crop cultivation. Roseau is the capital and largest town; Marigot hosts the airport; and Portsmouth is home to RUSM. Roads connect these towns and provide access to outside attractions.

RUSM and Dominica

To build a mutually-beneficial relationship with the host country, the officials of RUSM are dedicated to working with the government of Dominica to improve the health and welfare of the local people, while simultaneously providing medical education of the highest quality. Students often participate in health fairs, disease prevention education, and work with local health care professionals as part of their supplemental education.


Year-round temperatures in Dominica normally range from 75 to 85°F during the day, with comfortably cooler evenings and nights. There are two seasons: the dry season runs from December through June; and the wet season runs during the remainder of the year. Hurricanes are a risk in the early fall, as they are to most parts of the Caribbean and southeastern U.S. Fortunately, the RUSM campus and community are well equipped to deal with tropical storms and hurricanes.


The climate and local customs in Dominica dictate the style of dress. Because of the warm climate, most people find light cotton clothing to be the most comfortable. Since rain showers occur quite often—especially during summer and fall—umbrellas and light rain clothing are essential. On campus, casual clothes (shorts, sandals, sundresses) are worn most of the time. Professional wear, such as skirts or dresses for women, and slacks and shirts (no jeans or T-shirts) for men, are required for some social events and some clinical skills activities (see Clinical Sciences syllabus for professional dress code policy).


The cuisine of Dominica features a unique mix of African, Caribbean and European influences with a bright local twist. Expect dishes with rice, beans, plantains, and other fruits and vegetables, often with meat and often spicy.

Local food is generally safe for consumption, and tap water is consumed by local residents, but we recommend students drink only boiled or bottled water. Filtered water is available on campus. Food boiled in tap water is generally safe.

Local Travel

Travel within Dominica is best done by car. Taxi services are readily available and reasonably priced, and official taxi fares are posted at the airports. Keep in mind that figures are listed in Eastern Caribbean dollars.

If you choose to buy a car or motorcycle, take note that driving is done on the left side of the road. Pedestrian traffic on sidewalks and stairways also stays to the left. A Dominican license is required. You should be forewarned that Dominican roads can be dangerous, especially for motorcyclists. Motorcyclists and ATV drivers/passengers are required to wear helmets on campus, and we strongly advise that they be worn at all times.


Telecommunications on Dominica are more than adequate: it has well-developed cable television, telephone, and wireless systems.


Dominica uses Eastern Caribbean (XCD) currency, commonly referred to as EC dollars. The exchange rate officially hovers around 2.70 XCD dollars to one U.S. dollar. Most business establishments readily accept the U.S. dollar, but their exchange rate may be somewhat lower than the official rate. Local merchants and landlords will not accept personal checks drawn on U.S. and Canadian banks.

Banking facilities exist in both Portsmouth and Roseau, and students are advised to open a local account. A branch of the National Bank of Dominica Ltd. (NBD), is located on campus.  It is advisable to confirm the hours of operations for any business, especially when needing to complete personal business such as banking. There are also two NBD ATMs on campus, and a Scotiabank ATM located just outside of campus. Banks will negotiate U.S. checks, but it can take up to 30 days for personal checks to clear. However, NBD immediately clears all checks drawn against RUSM’s accounts (including U.S. student loan checks).


A number of denominations are represented in Dominica. Students have organized Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, and Muslim religious services.

Local Laws

Students who travel to Dominica from abroad to study at RUSM should remember that they are guests in a foreign country, which has its own unique customs, laws and cultural norms. Students and their guests, including family and friends, are expected to become familiar with and adhere to all local laws. Students are reminded that failure to adhere to local laws may result in serious repercussions beyond disciplinary action by RUSM but also include loss of visitor/student immigration status and/or criminal prosecution.


Members of the RUSM community using motorcycles or 4-wheel ATV’s are only permitted to park in designed parking spaces. Additionally, members of the RUSM community are required to wear helmets, and require their passengers to wear helmets, at all times while using motorcycles or 4-wheel ATV’s on any RUSM owned or controlled premises.

Violators may be subject to administrative action, including but not limited to, fines or denial of permission to use any motorcycle or 4-wheel ATV on campus. The Department of Security and Emergency Management is primarily responsible for enforcing this policy. Students found to be in violation of this policy will be advised as to any administrative action or penalty for violating of this policy by the Department of Security and Emergency

Management. Students who are non-compliant, disrespectful and/or unprofessional with regard to enforcement of this policy, and/or who violate this policy repeatedly, may be referred to the conduct coordinator for disciplinary proceedings. For purposes of this policy, a motorcycle is defined as any two or three wheeled motorized vehicle, including but not limited to mopeds and scooters.