as many as 500 low-income Americans to Cuba for medical study

Les Schaffer schaffer at
Thu Feb 15 18:22:00 MST 2001

[ bounced from unsubbed "Tom Warner" <twwarner at> ]

If you got this info before, just delete this note.  Anyway, It is
great that Cuba is offering medical educations to low income Yankee
kids, and if we can do anything to help this process along, lets try.

Thomas Warner (secretary Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee)
8923 2nd Ave. N.E.
Seattle, WA, 98115

(206) 523-1720

warner at

Wednesday February 14 6:16 PM ET
Cuba Offers Free Med School Training

By PAUL SHEPARD, AP National Writer

Members of Congress from New York to the Mississippi Delta are looking
for hundreds of low-income minority students to apply for free medical
study in Cuba at the invitation of Fidel Castro (news - web sites).

``We have people in the Bronx trying to identify students for the
program,'' said Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y. ``This is an exciting idea
and I just hope that politics don't get in the way.''

The State Department said it sees no legal problem with the plan.

The notion of sending as many as 500 low-income Americans to Cuba for
medical study - half would be black - was hatched last year during a
meeting in Havana between Castro and members of the Congressional
Black Caucus (news - web sites). Castro offered slots in Cuba if the
congressmen fill them.

``It would be hard for your government to oppose such a program,''
Castro said at the time. ``Morally, how could they refuse?''

Blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented in the nation's 125 medical
schools, according to studies published last fall in the Journal of
the American Medical Association (news - web sites). The number of
black, Hispanic and American Indian applicants fell by nearly 7
percent in 1999; of that year's freshman class, just 7.9 percent were
black and 6.9 percent Hispanic.

The U.S. population is 12 percent black and 12 percent Hispanic.

Under the six-year Cuban program, medical training, texts, uniforms,
meals and housing would be free - a sweet deal, since the average
U.S. medical school student is $93,000 in debt after training.

Eligible students would be between the ages of 18 to 25. They would
have to have at least a high school diploma and pass academic and
physical exams.  Spanish lessons would be provided if needed.

Emile Milne, spokesman for Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, said the
program will be administered by the black caucus. Registration could
begin this spring, though there are still plenty of questions for
lawmakers who want to nominate students.

Among them: Will Cuban medical credentials be worth much in the United
States? Many Cuban physicians who fled to the United States have had
difficulty obtaining licenses to practice. And some physicians trained
abroad are required to complete additional U.S. training.

``We would hope these doctors would be treated like any other doctors
from another country,'' Serrano said. ``We aren't asking anything
special be done for them. If they have to pass extra tests to practice
here, fine. We just wouldn't want them to be denied because of

Cuba has a surplus of doctors and dispatches thousands abroad each
year to work in impoverished countries. More than 25,000 Cuban doctors
have worked in 83 countries, Cuban officials said.

Luis Fernandez, a secretary for the Cuban Interests Section, Cuba's
diplomatic presence in Washington, said of the project: ``We hope to
create relationships among our people. Something concrete. We are not
asking for anything in exchange.''

But the public relations benefit is obvious for an island nation that
has been under a U.S. trade embargo since shortly after the communists
took power four decades ago.

``The offer is a propaganda ploy by the dictatorship,'' said Stephen
Vermillion, a spokesman for Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., who
opposes the program.

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