Latin American Medicine Day was established in honor of Cuban doctor, Carlos Juan Finlay Barrés. Photo: Cubasi

The Cuban people will honor the country's healthcare professionals in a series of activities commemorating Latin American Medicine Day (December 3), during which the selfless efforts of sector workers both on the island and international missions will be recognized.
Activities began on November 8 and will continue through January 15; including a well-deserved tribute to Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara, on the 50th anniversary of his death in Bolivia; and to Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz, one year since his passing; as well as celebrations marking the 44th anniversary of the National Health Workers Trade Union.
Outstanding healthcare workers from every province in the country, internationalist collaborators, and those that have participated in the anti-vector campaigns to prevent the spread of illnesses, such as Zika, dengue and Chikungunya, will all be recognized.
Meanwhile, tribute ceremonies and special acts will be held, along with days of voluntary work, which will include cleaning and sprucing up work places.

Dr. Santiago Badía, secretary general of the National Health Workers Trade Union, speaking to Granma International, noted that efforts to raise the population’s quality of life, and improve health indicators, of the over 470,000 sector workers across all branches of the country’s healthcare system, will be recognized.
He went on to note, “Currently one of our main aims is to improve the efficiency of our services. We have publicized the costs associated with medical care in a campaign called “Healthcare is free, but costs.” This is related to making patients and workers aware of how much it costs to provide services. We must not forget that we continue to be an underdeveloped country and economically blockaded by the United States, and that public health is costly for the revolutionary government.”
In this sense, Badía called on sector workers to save material and financial resources, while continuing to maintain the humanist essence of Cuban medicine.
He also noted that healthcare facilities are being refurbished and modernized, in order to raise the quality of services.
“We set ourselves ambitious goals every year,” stated the doctor, “and are ending this year with notable results and will be conscientiously working for a better 2018. During this period of celebrations, we will pay tribute to outstanding workers in the fields of medical care, teaching, and research. We will also recognize our professors who give the very best of themselves everyday so that our future professionals will be better prepared,” he noted.

Every December 3, patients and family members all over Cuba, congratulate their doctors, nurses, and healthcare technicians. The date marks the day in Camagüey,1833, that Carlos Juan Finlay Barrés was born; an eminent Cuban doctor who discovered that yellow fever is transmitted through mosquitoes, and developed a treatment for neonatal tetanus.

However, U.S. scientist Walter Reed attempted to discredit Finlay’s discovery, traveling to Cuba in 1901 as head of the fourth commission sent by the United States’ to prove the Cuban doctor wrong, and that yellow fever was a bacterial infection.
Nonetheless, during the 14th International Medical History Congress, held in Rome,1954, Finlay was confirmed as the only person to have discovered the transmission agent for yellow fever and a theory as to how it might be controlled in the tropics. The doctor from Camagüey was nominated seven times for the Nobel Prize for Medicine, but the United States always opposed his candidacy. During the 1950s the truth of Finlay’s discovery came to light, leading to the establishment of Latin American Medicine Day in his honor.