Cuban Adventure: Day Three
We continued our journey into the healthcare system of Cuba.
We visited a neighborhood clinic which, along with the physician, represents the first level of care for patients. The clinic is sparse and dated but the staff demonstrates an unsurpassed passion about patient care. After having lunch at a government restaurant, we traveled by bus to the Latin American Medical School or ELAM. This school only admits students from other countries—currently there are students from about 120 countries across the globe with 65 of those students from the U.S.
Since all classes are taught in Spanish, students take a semester-long, intensive Spanish course that includes medical terminology prior to beginning the six year program.
The most surprising thing about medial education at ELAM is that it is free---no tuition, no room and board----everything is free. Why, might one ask, is Cuba providing free medical school education to foreign students, especially when these students will go back to their countries to practice medicine?
The message that we got from the professor and the students that we spoke with, is that students can take the preventive and primary care skills that they learn and apply them to the medically underserved populations in their own communities. Since admission preference is given to those students who express a desire to practice in underserved areas, this philosophy makes sense.
I had the opportunity to speak with two students, one from southern California and one from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Both had nothing but praise for their education at this juncture, despite the crowded dorms and hot water rationed to three times per day. They spoke of the variety of health clinics they would receive training from and the collaborative relationships they had with their students and instructions.
Best of all, they receive a free medical education, obtain fluency in a foreign language and will have the skills to allow them to practice community-based medicine. All in all, a great bargain!