Ismael Oumarou Issaka, from Niger, is grateful to Cuba for offering professional training to international students. Photo: Nuria Barbosa León

Careers in the medical sciences are an option for young international students in Cuba, who are offered both undergraduate and postgraduate training through a network of 13 universities across the island.

Luis Alberto Pischs García, rector of the University of Medical Sciences of Havana, spoke to Granma International regarding these students. “The 12 faculties of the capital train over 2,500 students from Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, incorporated by way of funding from their governments or self-financed studies supported by their families.”

The Doctor in Pedagogical Sciences added that 700 doctors from across the world are enrolled in 43 specialization courses offered by the Ministry of Public Health (Minsap) including training, certification, masters degrees and doctorates in health sciences, medical education and oral medicine.

Dr. Pischs García explained that any interested applicant should approach the Education or Public Health ministry in their respective country, the Cuban embassy or inquire with the Cuban Medical Services Enterprise, through the website:

The Rector of the University of Medical Sciences of Havana, Dr. Luis Alberto Pischs García, noted that since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, they have been concerted efforts to offer university education to youth from across the world. Photo: Nuria Barbosa León

“Once in Cuba, undergraduate students receive Spanish language training at a preparatory school in the capital, should they not be Spanish speakers. On arrival, their previous studies are assessed to ensure the necessary level of knowledge to begin university studies. Meanwhile, for postgraduate studies, certain areas of expertise are favored, adapted according to their needs,” the rector noted.

International medical students have a close relationship with Cuban society, as they are trained through direct provision of patient care. “We intend not only to train a good professional, but a professional with a humane and social sense of medicine, with a greater commitment to their surroundings. That is our aspiration,” explained the rector, who also specializes in Internal Medicine and Intensive and Emergency Care.

Ismael Oumarou Issaka, a student from the Republic of Niger, noted that from the first year of an undergraduate degree in medicine, students visit doctors’ clinics and have contact with patients. “They teach us every day to strengthen clinical examination as an exploratory method for arriving at a diagnosis. Our learning is based on linking theory with practice,” he stated.

The young African, who is currently in his third year of medicine, explained that professors demand solid knowledge of bibliographic materials. He devotes long hours to his studies, to correctly understand scientific terms and the academic language of his textbooks.

A similar opinion was expressed by Congolese Rodin Oko Pea, aged 22, who is pleased to study at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM), inaugurated by the leader of the Revolution, Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro in 1998, which has graduated over 24,000 health professionals from 84 countries.

Young Panamanian Reymar Alvarado Vega greatly appreciates the philosophy of his professors, to train caring medical sciences professionals. Photo: Nuria Barbosa León

Oko Pea also spoke of student participation in cultural galas, at which they present different artistic expressions from their home countries, as well as in events to mark historic dates of Cuba; “The more than 720 Congolese students at ELAM promote events, festivals, concerts and all kinds of activities to share with the Cuban people.”

His friend from Panama, Reymar Alvarado Vega, acknowledged the efforts of their professors, who strive to provide them the knowledge needed to become caring professionals, and stressed that in Cuba, the philosophy of disease prevention, universal medical attention, and improved length and quality of life for the population, continue to be key.

They all agree on the benefits of learning based on strong theory combined with immediate practice, as the optimal formula to train a good doctor.