Where to train doctors for the people who need them the most?

October 1 2014

Gail Reed: I want to tell you how 20,000 remarkable young people from over 100 countries ended up in Cuba and are transforming health in their communities.  Ninety percent of them would never have left home at all if it weren’t for a scholarship to study medicine in Cuba and a commitment to go back to places like the ones they’d come from — remote farmlands, mountains, ghettos — to become doctors for people like themselves, to walk the walk.

Havana’s Latin American Medical School: It’s the largest medical school in the world, graduating 23,000 young doctors since its first class of 2005, with nearly 10,000 more in the pipeline. Its mission, to train physicians for the people who need them the most: the over one billion who have never seen a doctor, the people who live and die under every poverty line ever invented. Its students defy all norms.

They’re the school’s biggest risk and also its best bet .  They’re recruited from the poorest, most broken places on our planet by a school that believes they can become not just the good but the excellent physicians their communities desperately need, that they will practice where most doctors don’t, in places not only poor but oftentimes dangerous, carrying venom antidotes in their backpacks or navigating neighborhoods riddled by drugs, gangs and bullets, their home ground .

The hope is that they will help transform access to care, the health picture in impoverished areas, and even the way medicine itself is learned and practiced, and that they will become pioneers in our global reach for universal health coverage, surely a tall order .

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