July 23, 2011, Havana–Following stirring choral offerings ranging from Ave Maria to We Are the World, 19 US medical students were among those awarded their degrees at today’s graduation of physicians, nurses and allied health professions of the Medical University of Havana’s Dr Salvador Allende Health Sciences Faculty. The new US physicians are among 1396 international medical students graduating this week throughout Cuba who were enrolled in the full-scholarship Latin American Medical School (ELAM) program. They all completed a bridging course and another two years of basic sciences study at ELAM’s main Havana campus, before fanning out to health sciences faculties across the country for their final four clinical years.
Here in Havana, Allende is one of the faculties celebrating graduations today, 22 countries represented in its Classof 2011, including Cuba and the USA. In his remarks, Allende’s Dean Dr Jorge Jimenez called them “worthy young men and women ready to do battle for health anywhere in the world.”
ELAM Rector Dr Juan Carrizo noted that, since the first ELAM students received their degrees in 2005, the program has graduated over 9900 MDs from the Americas, Africa and Asia. He praised those who made their medical studies possible, including the students themselves, their parents and professors, and former President Fidel Castro whose idea founded the ELAM program. “We owe ourselves to our vocation,” he reminded the graduates in closing, “to see people as patients, never clients, and to apply our knowledge, skills and commitment to help them.” Dr Carrizo was among various speakers who paid tribute to the late Rev. Lucius Walker, director of the Inter-Religious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO)/Pastors for Peace, whose work was vital to the US contingent of students, calling him a “courageous man of principles.”
MEDICC International Director Gail Reed was a guest at the graduation. She explained that MEDICC provides the ELAM program with latest-edition textbooks and carries out cooperation projects with students from Haiti, Honduras and the USA. MEDICC supports US graduates’ transition into medical practice through the MD Pipeline to Community Service, which awards fellowships to defray the costs of US board exams and preparatory courses, provides students and graduates with US physician mentors, coordinates clinical opportunities for students in US public hospitals and community health centers, and conducts outreach about ELAM to US residency programs. “Our heartiest congratulations go to these wonderful young people from across the United States,” she said. “And we want to let them know how much they are needed back home, where health disparities continue to plague our communities along lines of race, gender and income.”