FROM: Karen Lee Wald who is living and working in Cuba
Latin American School of Medicine Graduation (ELAM)
Lucius Walker began by saying he'd attended many graduations, but
none like this one, which he described as a world-class graduation
not just because of the number of countries represented in the
graduating class (29) and members of indigenous groups, poor
communities who would never have dreamed of being able to study
medicine, but because these students had been transformed by their
experience here and would in turn transform medicine in the world.
Out of this grand and noble collection of students who will go forth
in the world, only 8 are from the United States. So one would not
have expected that the prospect of 8 students graduating from ELAM
would have even raised an eyebrow in Washington. But so radical was
this extraordinary idea, that in the year 2004 special actions were
taken by the pres of the US that would have prevented the possibility
of us students participating in this program.
It took the combined involvement of 28 members of the US Congress to
launch a campaign at the highest level of our country to force the
recognition of the LASM to create conditions. The combined efforts of
the 28 members of congress saved the possibility of US students to
participate in this program. What had they seen that made them do
They had visited Cuba, had seen the diversity and possible of
medicine for all people in cuba and knew it was radically different
from US. They knew they were seeing a health care program that was
not about profits for corporations, not about money but about
guaranteeing quality of health care.
Invited Fidel Castro to send doctors to poorest areas of US where
there are few doctors. Fidel wisely commented, Your govt would
probably not allow that to happen, but if you will send us your young
people, finest and brightest, we will train them in the finest
tradition of Cuban medicine, alongside students from students
throughout this hemisphere.
They will be imbured with a commitment to provide health care for the
poorest, those who have been denied all type of health care. Indeed
that's the commitment Cuba has made to all of you who graduate. And
what does it ask in return? That you return to your country, to
provide the quality health care to the poor, transforming conditions
in this hemisphere, Africa and other parts of the world.
So when you march with your diplomas today you march as an army that
will transform the communities you come from. So I join with all of
you in offering a special word of thanks to Comandante Fidel, to the
Ministry of Public Health, to all of the faculty at the LASM, to the
hospitals where you've done your clinical studies, to you because
they have transformed your lives, and you will go forth and transform
the lives of others; present to the world the true human traits of
Cuba; will make known to the world the honor and courage of Cuba.
Standing shoulder to shoulder with Cuba, you will truly transform
Know that you go forth with a special commitment, as new citizens of
a new world.
It is my privilege to share with you words of members of Congress
Charles Rangel, Barbara Lee, Jose Serrano, and a host of other
elected officials who've asked that I share with you their best
wishes because you are citizens of the kind of world they want to
help build. That's why they support Cuba, support you. God Bless You.
A Chilean woman student spoke in name of students. We come from the
humblest sectors of their countries, she began, and talked about the
solidarity that made it possible for those who could never have
dreamed of it to become doctors. Thanked mothers, fathers, sisters
and brothers who also gave their support in the most difficult
moments, perhaps not physically but in our hearts. Thanked Fidel for
giving a little more dignity to our peoples. Thanked Cubans for
taking them into their hearts.
Grupo Moncada performed song that a young American songwriter had
given them, singing in both English and Spanish, converting this into
a distinctly Cuban type of graduation unlike any other, as people in
the auditorium began swaying their bodies, clapping hands
rhythmically above their heads in time to the music.
(I'm going to send this now, although my notes are very rough, so you
get a flavor of this historic graduation. I'm hoping to get
transcripts of the actual speeches -especially the words of Health
Minister Jose Ramon Balaguer, and send you the actual texts of what
July 25, 2007
Medical Students from Around the World Graduated in Cuba on Tuesday
A total of 8,884 students from several nations received their university
degrees in Cuba as medical doctors, dentists, nurses and healthcare
A total of 8,884 medical professionals -among them 1,842 from foreign
countries- graduated from various Cuban universities as doctors, dentists,
nurses and healthcare technicians, announced Public Healthcare Minister Jose
Minister Balaguer's statements came as he addressed the graduation in Havana
on Tuesday of doctors from the city's Higher Institute of Medical Sciences.
Balaguer said the training of so many healthcare professionals was a
practical expression of the ideas of President Fidel Castro. These new
doctors were trained with the requirements of humanity in mind, aware that
the world needs to be different, he noted.
The Cuban health minister said 53,000 young people from 89 countries are
enrolled in medical programs on the island, while Cuban specialists are
training other students in their respective nations. Cuban doctors provide
medical care to some 60 million people around the world, persons who had
never received such attention before, said the minister.
The evening's graduation from the Higher Institute of Medical Sciences in
Havana included the third graduating class of the Havana-based Latin
American School of Medicine, where the foreign doctors -eight of them from
the United States- completed studies this year. Some 2,470 Cuban students
also graduated as physicians this year.
Cuba scores points as US medics graduate in Havana
Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent
Wednesday July 25, 2007
Eight American students have graduated from a Cuban medical school after six years of free tuition, giving a fresh boost to the reputation of the communist government's healthcare system.
The first class of US graduates from the Latin American School of Medicine, a Fidel Castro brainchild on Havana's outskirts, plan to return home and take board exams for licenses to work as doctors in US hospitals.
The Americans were among more than 2,100 students from about 25 countries who received diplomas this week in a high-profile ceremony at Havana's Karl Marx theatre.
The six women and two men, all from US ethnic minority backgrounds, said they would use their skills to treat poor people, in keeping with the humanitarian ethos of the school.
"Healthcare is not seen as a business in Cuba," Kenya Bingham, a 29-year-old Californian, told the Associated Press.
"When you are sick they are not going to try to charge you or turn you away if you don't have insurance. We have studied medicine with a humanitarian approach."
The school on a former naval base, opened by Fidel Castro in 1999, offers scholarships to students from around the world and is intended to showcase the island's commitment to universal healthcare.
To boast graduates from the US, an arch-foe which has imposed a decades-long economic embargo, was another public relations coup for a government already basking in the glow from Michael Moore's documentary, Sicko. The film contrasts expensive profit-driven health care in the US with free treatment in Cuba.
The first class of US graduates, which started the course in 2001, has been followed by about 90 other Americans. A further 18 are due to enrol next month, making the Americans a small but high profile minority among the more than 5,000-strong student body.
The communist authorities rely on the US Congressional Black Caucus and a non-profit group, Pastors for Peace, to select candidates. Washington's embargo bans most Americans from travelling to Cuba but an exemption has been made for the medical students.
The diploma is recognised by the World Health Organisation but it is not clear if the US graduates will be eligible to sit the two exams necessary to apply for residency at American hospitals.
"Do I think there will be prejudices against us when we go back to the States and are looking for residences? Yes, it's inevitable," said Ms Bingham.
However she was hopeful, given that the first US graduate, Cedric Edwards, is now working at Montefiore hospital in New York's Bronx borough. Unlike this week's graduates, Mr Edwards started medical studies in the US and later switched to Havana, graduating two years ago, as the sole American.
If they make it, the graduates will be part of just 6% of practising doctors from ethnic minority backgrounds, according to the US Association of American Medical Colleges.
Conditions at the Latin American School of Medicine are basic. Students share dormitories, eat beans and rice, and use ancient equipment.
Mr Castro, 80, did not attend yesterday's graduation ceremony. His last public appearance was at last year's anniversary of the July 26 1953 attack on the Moncada military barracks which launched the revolution.
Raul Castro, who is standing in as president while his brother convalesces from surgery, is expected to address tomorrrow's anniversary celebrations.