Brazil: Relatives of MST Peasants Arrive in Cuba to Study Medicine

By Gabriel Vera López, on March 15, 2023

Arrival of the MST delegation of medical students to Cuba – photo: Gabriel Vera Lopes

Ten young Brazilians have arrived in Cuba with a dream to study medicine with the aim of helping their communities. It was the first time most of them had left Brazil to visit another country.This opportunity only became possible by the scholarship they received from the prestigious Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in the capital Havana.

The young people are the first Brazilians to study at ELAM in eight years and come from peasant families linked to the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST).

“I wanted to study medicine because I feel that in our camps there is a great lack of health and I want to help bring health to those most in need,” Sofia Rodrigues da Costa, from the state of Maranhão, tells Brasil de Fato.

Likewise, Luiz Henrique da Silva Parteck, from the state of Paraná, says he wants to study medicine because in the region where he lives there is a great lack of medical care for the communities.

What is the Latin American School of Medicine?

The Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) was created in 1999. At that time, the Caribbean region was hit by Hurricanes George and Mitch, which caused more than 10,000 deaths. Cuba then decided to send doctors to the affected countries to help with the disaster. But it also decided to build a medical university to train professionals from the affected countries.

Through a system of scholarships designed to enable young people of limited economic means to study medicine free of charge, the school has received hundreds of students from the Caribbean. Over time, the project spread to different regions of the world and students arrived from other regions of Latin America, the United States and Africa.

Nowadays, there are many reasons why young people from different parts of the world decide to study medicine in Cuba. One of the most important has to do with the humanistic approach to medicine on the island.

“Cuba has always had the reputation that health is very good and that the system is very humane and not very commercial. And I came here and realized that this is the case,” Chilean Ailin Sofie tells Brasil de Fato, in the second year of her medical degree. “With each of them there is a doctor-patient relationship that I had never seen before. In Chile that doesn’t exist, and I think it’s something that all countries should apply.”

Many students had some contact with Cuban doctors in their countries of origin, which encouraged them to decide to study medicine on the island. This is the case of Yofri Salvadoro, from Burkina Faso, an African country that was a colony of France.

“I wanted to come here because there is always a difference between Cuban doctors and doctors in my country in terms of the care they give to patients. Because what helps the patient recover sometimes is the medical care,” Salvadoro said.

Currently, the countries with the most students in medical education programs in Cuba are Palestine and Colombia. In the case of Palestine, this is due to the help provided by Cuba in the face of the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel.

The large number of Colombian students is explained by the peace agreement signed between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In the mechanism that established that the armed group would give up the armed struggle and become a political party, it was established that ELAM would receive young people from areas affected by violence. The objective was to provide them with professional training for their social reintegration.

ELAM has trained 30,700 doctors from almost 120 different countries. Of these, more than 1,000 ELAM graduates are Brazilian.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – Buenos Aires