Cubans Aid USA

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at SPAMtao.ca
Thu Mar 29 13:27:10 MST 2001


Cuba offers free medical education to US minority students
By Dorothy Guellec

It's all about altruism man, not politics. It would be unthinkable in
the US to offer much of anything for nothing, let alone a 6-year medical
education, but the Cubans have been doing this for many countries in the
past, and now Americans may apply. Hundreds of low-income minority
students will now be fortunate thanks to Cuba. In the U.S. the same
6-year course of study would run $93,000. No wonder doctors are so
grumpy these days with a debt this big to begin a career.

"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 problems with the plan.

The scholarship program arose as a result of a meeting last year between
members of the Black Caucus, a group of black members of Congress, and
Fidel Castro. The caucus will help administer the program. Of the 500
positions, 250 will be reserved for low-income black students, and 250
for low-income students from other minority groups.

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

Anti-Castro groups in the USA have denounced the program, as you would
have expected calling it a "propaganda ploy". But Luis Fernandez, an
official with the Cuban Interests Section, which represents Cuba in
Washington, DC, said that the Cuban government's offer is entirely
altruistic. "It is only to help people in the poor communities of the
United States". He said. "There is nothing political about it. We are
asking for nothing in return."

Students accepted to the program will attend school at the Latin
American School of Medical Sciences in Havana. Cuban officials say the
school has a long tradition of training foreign students from the
developing world and currently has more than 3400 enrolled from 23
countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa.

In a speech at New York's Riverside Church (Sept.2000) President Fidel
Castro stated, "Cuba has reduced its infant mortality from 60 per 1,000
live births in the first year of life to less than 7 deaths per 1,000."
How does this compare with U.S. infant mortality? I am sure that readers
of this column know the answer. The rate of infant mortality in
Washington D.C. is twice as high as in socialist Cuba. According to that
famous list each month in Harpers, 79 countries, including Cuba, have a
lower infant mortality rate than Harlem, New York.

I read somewhere on a list serve that when Castro was in the U.S. he met
with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and spoke with a Rep.
from Mississippi, who said that in his district there were areas with no
doctors at all. That doesn't surprise me, but it might come as a shock
to the readership. The U.S. in many respects has one of the worst health
care systems in the world. In many HMO's nurse practitioners are
replacing doctors, and already nurse anesthicists are replacing MD's who
once were present to dispense anesthesia alongside the surgeons.

Castro also feels that the U.S. has an inferior system. He said in New
York "I see you are the Third World of the United States.We are prepared
to send you a few doctors free of charge, the same as we do for other
countries of the Third World."

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. The number of Black, Hispanic and American
Indian applicants fell by nearly 7% in 1999; of that year's freshman
class, just 7.9% was black and 6.9% Hispanic. The U.S. population is 12%
black and 12% Hispanic.

But will Cuban credentials be worth much in the United States? Many
Cuban physicians who fled to the U.S. have had difficulty obtaining
licenses to practice. This may be political on the part of the USA. In
the worst case imaginable, the doctor could sit for the exam in the
state where he would eventually practice. That seems to work for all the
foreign doctors we have now from India, Pakistan, and all countries of
the world. Those credentials seem very high indeed for the rest of the
world. Since 1990 in response to an earthquake 39,780 volunteers have
worked in 80 different nations Currently there are 429 Cuban doctors in
Haiti to be increased to 800 by the end of this year.

Speaking of altruism Dr. Anthony F. Kirkpatrick emailed me the latest in
his continuing effort, almost unimaginable in devotion and persistence
in spite of very difficult odds, to deliver medical supplies to Cuba.
Last Thanksgiving Day he said, "I flew my small plane to Cuba loaded
with medical donations from the United States. To get permission, I had
to overcome considerable nervousness from Cuban authorities. They feared
my flight would open a way for more U.S.-sponsored provocation by
private pilots, such as the events that led to the shoot down of two
planes by Cuba in 1996." The whole Miami Herald Editorial by Dr.
Kirkpatrick can be found at http://www.miami.com/herald/
It was published February 28,2001

Dorothy Guellec Health Commentary writer guellec at purvid.purchase.edu

-------------------------------------------
Macdonald Stainsby
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