African-American Med students find life-raft in CUBA


About seven years ago I first heard of a program that seemed too good to be true!  Simply, the country of Cuba had a program where students could gain their medical education, training and degree at no cost to them.  Med school cost are crippling for most and range from $140,000 – $175,000 and that is just tuition.  When you factor in room & board, meals, supplies and other things the cost can easily skyrocket to nearly $500,000.

My treks started in 2014 and due to needing laser-focus energy on my two topics; Race in Cuba and the Old Negro Leagues in Cuba, I forgot about the program.

 

Fiction or Non-Fiction

Just like you I love entertainment.  The problem I have is limited time so when it comes to reading or viewing screenings, as a historian I tend to focus on non-fiction or real-life issues.  Maybe that is the reason I prefer documentaries?  The Pan-African Film Festival (PAFF) kicked off its 27th year last Thursday.

Lo and behold one of their features is “Dare to Dream.”  It is a riveting documentary that chronicles med students earning their credentials in Cuba.

(courtesy of Pomona Valley Med Center) Completing his residency at Pomona Valley Medical Center. Resident Year: 2019 Undergraduate School: The University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma Medical School: Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina

In 2000, a delegation representing the Congressional Black Caucus had the courage to visit Cuba and meet with Fidel Castro.  Part of their discussion was the pathetic health care African-Americans and other minorities had to deal with.  Later that year members of the Cuban Health ministry visited the group in New York and announced Castro was creating a program for the population affected to complete their studies in Cuba and the cous de gras was there was absolutely no cost.

Approximately half of the initial scholarships were targeted for African-American students.  The remainder were for Latino and other ethnic minorities who came from underserved communities.

 

The Escuela Latinoamericana de Ciencias Médicas (ELAM) program initially offered 500 scholarships total for US students.  Thus far nearly 200 US students have graduated and nearly 30,000 students from over 100 countries worldwide have benefitted.  IFCO is the organization which identifies and places students in the program.

 

As for those from the United States, they are placed in hospitals all over, including Pomona Valley Medical Center.

 

The first class of 1,498 ELAM doctors graduated on August 20, 2005, with 112 from other Cuban medical schools: 28 other countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States were represented by the graduates. The ceremony was led by Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Reportedly attending were Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of Antigua & BarbudaPrime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of DominicaPrime Minister Keith Mitchell of GrenadaPresident Martín Torrijos of PanamaPrime Minister Denzil Douglas of St. Kitts & Nevis and Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent & the Grenadinesas well as high-ranking government representatives of The BahamasBarbadosBelize, the Dominican Republic, EcuadorGrenadaGuatemalaGuyanaJamaicaSt. LuciaSuriname and Trinidad & Tobago.

 

The documentary has two more screenings before PAFF ends.  To be informed and see for yourself this remarkable program I would encourage you to attend PAFF or purchase the video.

  • Friday – Feb. 15th 4:30pm
  • Saturday – Feb. 16th 6:30pm

 

Here is the trailer

Dare to Dream: Cuba’s Latin American Medical School from Jennifer Wager on Vimeo.