The Guardian 23 November, 2005

Cuba now has 71,000 doctors

Anett Rios Jauregui

On November 14 the Ministry of Public Health, in the name of the Cuban people, presented certificates of recognition to the first doctors and dentists who graduated thanks to the Revolution 40 years ago, during a ceremony at the Aula Magna of the University of Havana. The ceremony was presided over by members of the Political Bureau Ramón Machado Ventura and José Ramón Balaguer Cabrera, also Minister of Public Health.

On November 14, 1965, on Pico Turquino and in the presence of President Fidel Castro, the historic graduation took place of the 426 men and women who inaugurated, with their practice, a new stage in health services for the Cuban people.

The oath taken by that group included renouncing private medicine; accepting the duty to expand rural medical services, promote preventive health care among the population and to provide selfless aid to needy peoples, among other commitments.

The Minister of Public Health — after describing that day with the same words used at the time by Fidel: "A victorious day for our medicine" — reflected on the importance of that oath for the Cuban Revolution, people and healthcare system.

Renouncing private medicine, he emphasised, offered a different road to the practice of medicine, that which was dreamed of by Fidel and the Revolution. Four decades later, he affirmed, Cuba has a health care system that could not exist anywhere else in the world, given that public health is a policy of our socialist state, foundation and essence of the Revolution.

During his speech, Balaguer noted that in 1959, the country had 6,000 doctors, with an average of one doctor per 1,000 inhabitants. Half of those professionals emigrated. Today, Cuba has 71,000 doctors, he said, and that figure shows what the Revolution has meant for this sector.

He also commented on how the history of health care workers during these years has been associated with selfless service and commitment to the peoples of other nations.

During the ceremony, tribute was paid to the professors who trained the first group, and to those who fell during missions in Angola and Guinea Bissau. Doctor Angel Fernández, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, also honoured Pedro Borrás, the first medical student who died defending the Revolution during the Bay of Pigs battles, and a symbol of his generation.

Of this group of doctors and dentists, 96 percent have qualified as first or second-grade specialists; 71 percent have qualified as teachers, and 20 percent as researchers.

More than half have completed one or more internationalist missions, while six percent have attained the level of scientist.


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