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America's no. 1 Cuban import: Blacks go to medical school abroad and return to the U.S. to practice.

Leon Daniels was working his way through college and scraping up money for the MCATs when he heard about a program that offered a free ride in medical school--if he went to Cuba.

"I always wanted to do medical school and this was the perfect opportunity," said Daniels, a 31-year-old first-year student from Oakland, California “Oakland” redirects here. For other uses, see Oakland (disambiguation).
Oakland (IPA: /ˈoʊklənd/), founded in 1852, is the eighth-largest city in the U.S.
. "It helped me not have to worry about paying loans back"

Daniels is one of about 100 American students--more than half of them black--enrolled in a Cuban government scholarship program at the Latin American School of Medicine Latin American School of Medicine could refer to:
  • Latin American School of Medicine (Cuba)
  • Latin American School of Medicine A.P. Réverénd (Venezuela)
. Started by Cuban President Fidel Castro Noun 1. Fidel Castro - Cuban socialist leader who overthrew a dictator in 1959 and established a Marxist socialist state in Cuba (born in 1927)
Castro, Fidel Castro Ruz
 in 2000, the program offers low-income students a free medical education in Cuba Education in Cuba is nominally subsidized at all levels and controlled by the Cuban Ministry for Education. In 1961 the government nationalized all private educational institutions and introduced a state-directed education system. . In exchange, the students agree to go back to their American communities and offer medical care. The Congressional Black Caucus Congressional Black Caucus, organization of African-American members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Founded in 1970, it addresses legislative concerns of African Americans and other minority citizens, such as employment, welfare reform, minority business  sent a delegation to Cuba in 2000 to meet with Castro and, after the subject of the underserved medical needs of those in American inner cities came up, he suggested the scholarship.

A cornerstone of Cuba's international diplomacy is its medical outreach. In addition to the medical school scholarship, the country sends teams of doctors all over the world to respond to natural disasters, and Cuban doctors provide medical services to the underserved in Africa. According to Cuba's foreign ministry, in 2006 the country was in the process of training 20,000 foreign students to be doctors, nurses, and dentists, most free of charge.

Rev. Lucius Walker, executive director of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization The Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization is an international religious community whose aim is to ensure justice for the oppressed peoples of the world. External links
Official Website
, the New York-based group that receives and processes the applications for the scholarship, says the program is working to increase the number of African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race. , Latino, Asian American, and Native American doctors in the U.S. (According to the U.S. Census, only about 5% of U.S. doctors are black)

"We see it as a tremendous opportunity to help provide quality medical care in the communities that are medically underserved," Walker says.

The program will graduate its first class this summer, with the expectation that those students will take U.S. medical licensing exams and apply for entry into a U.S. residency program. Bill Kelly, director of credentialing and record services for the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates Through its program of certification, the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) assesses the readiness of international medical graduates to enter residency or fellowship programs in the United States that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for , says the commission has certified Cuban medical graduates for years. Last year, it certified 111 Cuban-trained graduates. In acquiring that education, the students face challenges posed by the U.S blockade. In 2004, the Bush administration tightened rules on travel to Cuba, a move that threatened to force the students to leave the program. The Congressional Black Caucus obtained a special license allowing the students to stay legally.

Living conditions at the medical school are very different from those in medical schools in the U.S. Students share dorm rooms with 18 roommates. They take cold showers, and beans and rice is the standard diet. Classes are taught in Spanish.

But Daniels says it's worth it. "I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)

"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party.
 how I could have passed this opportunity up," Daniels says. "The conditions, the food, the situation, it's a small price to pay."
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Author:Ataiyero, Kayce T.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Jul 1, 2007
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