Health education in Cuba

Education has remained a high priority in Cuba for many years. This is why Cuba has retained a high rank when it comes to delivering education. Cuban government have taken every possible steps required to make their education system superior and within the reach of poorest of students, even outside the country. As a result, about 10% of its central budget is spent on making the Cuban education system better.  Cuba offers a number of subjects to study among which medicine has been one of the best and popular throughout the world.

Medical aspirants have 23 medical schools to choose from among which Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM), in Havana is considered the paramount institution. The inexpensive education system of Cuba has attracted a large number of students throughout the world, including Latin America, Africa, Caribbean, Pakistan and even US in recent times. At present, 3432 students from 23 countries are studying medicine in Cuba.

The mission of Cuban medical education system is to gift a large number of competent doctors to the world, who will provide health care to the people of his country at nominal cost. That is why the Cuban medical schools, including ELAM, provide full scholarships to students to come from families with low income. Apart from free tuition, the students are also offered free lodging and food within the campus. They are not charged money for the Spanish textbooks, school uniform, bedding and even basic toiletries.

The most amazing part of their medical education program is that the students are given 100 Cuban pesos as a monthly stipend during their academic life. The only expense which they have to bear is that of travelling to and from school which is also nominal, given the short distance of the dorms from the school. Hence one can make out from the above scholarship program that Cuba government has tailored the medical studies for the underprivileged yet talented students. Indeed, Cuba had experienced a flood of more than 10000 medical students from 49 nations in ELAM alone, in 2006-07, mostly from families with weak financial status.

Cuba promised medical scholarships to 1000 Pakistani students, after their nation met with a shattering earthquake in 2005. Apart from developing countries, the government of Cuba also extended their free training programs to US students in 2001 and Cedric Edwards, the 1st one to graduate from Cuba, is now serving at Montefiore Hospital in New York City.

Cuban government are found to undertake reformative steps for the betterment of their education system. The latest reform made in 2004-2005 accredited community polyclinics as the place for medical training for academics. This reform not only helped the government to cope up with its flood of medical students but also promises to enrol and train more doctors in near future. These polyclinics are well-equipped with, documentation centre, clinical laboratory and rehabilitation facilities and computer-equipped classroom as the central teaching unit, where theoretical content is demonstrated by practical activity. About 12122 students enrolled in this University Polyclinic Medical Training Program (UPMTP) in 2006.

Apart from the Cuban government, a number of organisations have also extended their helping hands to the medical students of Cuba. One such non-profit organisation is Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba, based in Atlanta, who aims to support needy students from US in ELAM. Gail Reed, the International director of MEDICC, have undertaken a number of programs to aid the aspiring doctors.

Some of these programs include the Mnisi Fellowship to US which finances the preparatory classes for medical entrance exam, a glossary of medical terms in French, Spanish and Creole for medical students Haiti, providing medical language texts and CDs to South African students from Cuba and many more. Hence, Gail Reed, also a journalist and the wife of Julián Rizo, Ambassador to Grenada is working relentlessly to make the medical studies easier and a fun process, for the foreign students of Cuba.

Therefore, Cuba is calling the talented students all over the world, to enrol in their medical curriculum and become doctors with a commitment to serve the needy communities of their nation at low cost or even free when necessary. All they need is a Bachelors or an equivalent degree, a visa, a good knowledge of Spanish and a flair for medicine.  Liya Das. (TCC)



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