Cuban Medical Students

Date: 2011
Owner: Granma
Source Type: Images


This photograph shows a classroom lecture in Havana's Latin American School of Medical Sciences (ELACM). This medical school, which now has an enrollment of about 4000 students, offers free education and free room and board to an elite corps of students from throughout the developing world. ELACM even offers free Spanish lessons for students from non Spanish speaking countries. Building off of Latin American traditions of applied science, the first two years of the six year curriculum emphasize a hands-on, work-focused approach to learning that teaches the broad range of skills needed to provide primary care. Due to Cuba's efforts to provide for the needs of women and children, community health, obstetrics, and gynecology are given special emphasis. After finishing the two years of general study, students spend the next four years developing a specialization.

The collapse of the Soviet Union caused a dramatic decline in health among Cubans. The per capita caloric intake dropped by almost 40% and little funding was available to support the infrastructure of Cuba's primary care system. Yet, despite the fact that the U.S. augmented its trade embargo, the economy--and especially the nation's healthcare services--have recovered rather well. Between 1990 and 2003, the number of primary care physicians increased by 76% and, due in large part to agricultural biotechnology, the average Cuban's diet has become quite healthy (Nayeri and Lopez-Pardo 2005). By emphasizing that students from the developing world (who would not be able to afford medical school in the U.S.) receive a quality, work-oriented medical education, Cuba is furthering its humanitarian healthcare mission.

CITATION: Cuban medical school class. Image originally published in Granma, the official organ of the the central committee of the Latin American School of Medicine, July 2011.