MEDICC announced diplomas went to 1,382 new MDs in Havana on July 23 at the Medical University of Havana’s graduation ceremonies that also included graduates of the Latin American Medical School (ELAM). Of the 879 international graduates from 28 countries, 20 were US students completing six-year ELAM scholarships. Professors and hundreds of parents packed the Cuban labor union auditorium for the event, presided over by Cuban Vice President Ramón Machado Ventura and Minister of Health Roberto Morales, among others.
Of the total Havana graduates, 58.5% are women, a percentage surpassed among the US grads where three-fourths are female–new doctors such as Jany Dotel, Parastou Malek, Joanna Mae Souers, Medhanite Tekle and Kari Koch. In interviews with MEDICC as they unfurled their diplomas, each expressed gratitude to the Cubans’ hospitality over so many years and to their professors for unflagging support. Their plans are many: Joanne, originally from Rhinebeck, NY, is headed for a course at Montefiore Hospital in New York, and will join the Transition Project to attend to health needs of recently incarcerated people; Jany hopes to return to her native Bronx, NY, to “serve the underserved” and become a role model for other young African-Americans; Kari , who hails from North Carolina, wants to go into rural practice, “to become part of a small community, much like Cuban doctors are able to do”; Parastou from Martinez, CA and Medhanite from Alexandria, VA, both plan to work in family medicine, and Parastou also sees international service in her future.
Clemente Robles from NY says the first thing he plans to do back home is “babysit my two children, ages three and two years”, then get to work passing the one step he has pending in the three-step US Medical Licensing Exam, and finally to work in the area of public health policy. Eduardo Cervantes from Corvallis, OR, intends to specialize in pediatrics; and Malik Sharif of Cleveland, OH, says besides his professional goals, he wants to “give back to my family, help them the way they helped me make it through medical school.”
The largest group of Havana’s international contingent this year comes from Peru, 29% of the ELAM graduates here in the Cuban capital, followed by those from Brazil; and special mention was made of the 28 Chinese graduates, bringing to 200 their number since 2006.
Medical University of Havana Rector Jorge González told the class of 2014 that graduation is “just the first step in a long road to help our peoples attain their aspirations, health and development,” urging the new MDs to practice a medicine that is “truly ethical and humanist.”
Graduations are being held at all Cuban provincial medical universities this week, where both Cuban and international ELAM students are receiving their degrees, in addition to those in nursing and allied health professions.
ELAM has graduated over 23,000 young doctors from 83 countries in the Americas, Africa and Asia since its first class of 2005.
Coming up September 10th! ELAM will be on the radar at this year’s TEDMED Conference when MEDICC’s Gail Reed takes the stage at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to talk about this, the world’s largest medical school, and the potential, hard work and hardships of its “23,000 and counting… graduates.” For live streaming and other screening opportunities, go to:http:// http://tedmed.com/event/tedmedlive?ref=about-tedmedlive or contact MEDICC to coordinate a viewing party.
Since 1997, MEDICC has worked to enhance cooperation among the US, Cuban and global health communities aimed at better health outcomes and equity. MEDICC produced the feature film ¡Salud! and publishes the MEDLINE-indexed journal MEDICC Review. MEDICC supports research in Cuba by US health professionals, assists US students and graduates of Havana’s Latin American Medical School to return to US underserved communities, and organizes Community Partnerships for Health Equity to improve health care and access in communities such as South Los Angeles and Oakland, California; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and The Bronx, New York. See: http://www.medicc.org