Havana, Cuba (PRWEB) July 26, 2013
Thunderous applause from newly graduated Cuban and foreign doctors greeted congratulatory remarks from Dr Jorge González, Rector of the Medical University of Havana, at commencement ceremonies in Cuba’s capital. The Lázaro Peña Theater was filled to capacity with 1,221 graduates, their family, friends, professors and representatives from the Ministries of Public Health and Higher Education celebrating the milestone in Cuban medical education. Among those receiving diplomas were foreign graduates of Havana’s Latin American Medical School (ELAM). They represented one tenth of the over 10,000 new MDs graduated this July throughout the country, including Cubans and international physicians.
González emphasized that it is not the quantity of new doctors making the difference, but the type of training and their commitment to serve that is most valuable: “These young people received quality scientific and technical training, combined with a humanistic approach, preparing them to work for health for all.” In his opening remarks, he underscored the diversity of 2013’s graduating class—60% of the new doctors are women and 60% are people of color—and made special note of the 58 graduates from China (the first cohort of graduates from that country to receive medical training in Cuba) and the eight graduates from the United States.
“I want to start a rural health practice when I return home to upstate New York,” Dr Jonas Benjamin Telson, one of the US ELAM graduates and a participant in MEDICC’s MD Pipeline to Community Service program, noted as he received congratulations from friends and colleagues. “I was looking to study medicine when I learned about the scholarships offered by Cuba. I was especially motivated by the possibility of learning Spanish—when I came here I didn’t speak a word and now I’m fluent.” Dr Telson went on to explain that each of the eight US graduates are interested in specializing in family medicine.
New graduate Dr Adrian Ontiveros, from Hidalgo, Mexico was also attracted by the six-year scholarships offered by ELAM—which has graduated over 20,000 doctors from 70 countries since its founding in 1999, making it the world’s largest medical school. “I could never have studied medicine in Mexico; I come from a poor family and they couldn’t support me through six years of study.” Dr Ontiveros explained that Cuba covers not only tuition for low-income students, but also books, housing, food, even the iconic white coat, which he wore with pride—he is the first doctor in his family.
Health Minister Dr Roberto Morales spoke directly to the Cuban graduates at Tuesday’s commencement, calling them “the future of our health system.” Highlighting the quality, integrated training they receive and the importance of pursuing specialties, Morales said that Cuba now has one physician per 132 inhabitants, a ratio which “allows Cuba to meet its domestic and foreign health professional commitments.” Newly graduated Dr Diane Espino is one of these new physicians. “I’m the first doctor in my family; I was drawn to this profession because I want to contribute to other people, to help save lives,” she said.
In total, 5,683 Cuban and 4,843 foreign doctors graduated in this year’s commencement across the country, where graduation ceremonies were held at all Cuban medical universities this week.
Since 1997, MEDICC’s mission has been to promote cooperation among the US, Cuban and global health communities to improve health outcomes and equity, offering the Cuban experience to inform global debate, policies and practice. MEDICC produced the feature length film ¡Salud! and publishes the MEDLINE-indexed MEDICC Review, the only peer-reviewed journal on Cuban health and medicine. MEDICC also supports research in Cuba by US health professionals, and its Community Partnerships for Health Equity are improving health care and access in South Los Angeles and Oakland, California; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and the Bronx, New York. See: http://www.medicc.org