given by Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the
Republic of Cuba, at the first graduation of students from the Latin American
School of Medicine. Karl Marx Theatre,
Excellencies and dear friends who, in representation of the countries that are home to the doctors who graduate here today, honor us with your presence;
Tenacious and dedicated young people who graduate today as a new class doctor, and their families;
Professors and workers of the Latin American School of Medicine;
Dear compatriots from
Almost seven years ago this graduation ceremony was merely a dream. Today, it is a confirmation of the power of human beings to reach the loftiest of goals, and it is truly a prize for those of us who believe that a better world lies within our grasp.
The idea was born when the
news services began to report that Hurricane Mitch had taken the lives of more
than 40 000 people in
Together with the idea of
Looking back in retrospect,
we remember that before
Most of the graduates came
from economically secure families. Half of the doctors, lured by the
Because of this, only a
handful of students graduated as doctors during the first years following the
triumph of the Revolution. The first
graduation of young doctors who had begun their studies after
Our armed struggle in the eastern range of the Sierra Maestra had ended hardly six years earlier. With memories of that conflict fresh in my mind, I invited that group of 400 young people who were completing their medical studies to hold the graduation ceremony on the highest peak in that range and in Cuba, at an altitude of two thousand meters, that is, at the Turquino Peak.
Today, as I stand before you in this theatre, the words that I spoke to those graduating doctors on the summit of that steep mountain seem unreal.
After underlining some
paragraphs from that speech, I cannot resist the temptation to repeat some of
the things that I said then tonight, when a group of 1,610 doctors are
graduating from the Latin American School of Medicine, including graduates from
At that time, we were also
victims of constant pirate attacks and acts of terrorism directed against our
country, which were organized by the government of the
This is what I said to those young people at the time: ´In this journey, many of you had the opportunity to understand many things, things unspoken, without indoctrination, without speeches, transmitted in this soundless but highly eloquent language that speaks of social and human realities. I am sure that rather than abstract ideas, inclinations, vocation, and the natural condition of each and every one of you -which are unquestionably good – the factor that will make you live up to your duties and always act the best way possible, will be the attitude of the peasants of these mountains, the type of men and women that you have seen here; the goodness, friendliness, generosity, solidarity, appreciation, and gratitude of men, women, children and elderly people who have worked, grown and lived under such difficult conditions in these mountains; their truly spontaneous gestures, the flowers with which they welcomed you, the fruits of their harvests, the coffee, the water, their willingness to help you, their cooperation in all types of organization, their high regard for doctors."
"The oath taken by these graduating students, its internationalist and revolutionary spirit...all of this must be very painful to the enemy.
they tried to minimize this in some way, so last night, according to the news
we received this morning at approximately , a pirate boat opened fire on the coast, in the area
I will try to make a brief summary of the results of our efforts with regard to the training of personnel and the development of medical sciences all along these years for the distinguished guests who honor us with their presence as well as for all those who are also present here at this graduation ceremony.
Medical doctors who graduated in our country following the triumph of the Revolution:
The total reaches 83,982. Three thousand six hundred and twelve out of this big total have come from other countries. We must also add the 1 905 Cuban doctors graduating this year, which means that the total actually reaches 85,887.
Nowadays the methods used to train doctors is radically different. Before the Revolution, the size of school classes was huge, practical lessons were minimal, and the fundamentals of basic sciences were virtually non-existent. Students were able to graduate without having ever directly examined a patient or assisted a childbirth. The curriculum was mainly aimed at curing patients and the private practice of the profession. These features were far removed from the health problems, thus affecting the country. The word ‘prevention’ was hardly ever used. On average, 300 doctors and 30 stomatologists graduated each year.
Today the number of youth from Cuba and from other countries around the world, who are ever more united in the struggle for a more just and humane future, is rising considerably in the different areas required by a logical and efficient public health system.
During the academic year 2004-2005, the students' breakdown was as follows:
· Medicine: 28.071
· Stomatology: 2.758
· Nursing: 19.530
· Health Technology: 28.400
Current students' sum total: 78.759.
Currently, more than 12 000 medical students from 83 different countries are studying for their degree in our country:
· 5.500 come from South American countries
· 3.244 come from Central American countries
489 come from
1,039 come from the
· 777 come from Sub-Saharan Africa
42 come from 6 countries in
61 come from
2 come from
The Latin American
countries with the largest numbers of students in
1. Venezuela 889
2. Honduras 711
3. Guatemala 701
4. Paraguay 641
5. Brazil 629
6. Bolivia 567
7. Nicaragua 560
8. Ecuador 551
9. Colombia 545
10. Peru 532
13. Jamaica 134
14. Guyana 117
15. Belize 79
16. Saint Lucia 69
Today we have the enormous satisfaction of seeing you, 1 610 new doctors, graduate:
343 from the
1 from the
Over the past seven years our
battle for solidarity and for the training of doctors from
The means and the methodology have been incredibly revolutionized, and theoretical and practical training has considerably surpassed that which had traditionally prevailed throughout history. It would be more accurate to say that the traditional form of training has been improved several times over.
While in the past there was only one university hospital, now all hospitals fall into the honorable category of university hospitals.
What is more: today, any of the 444 polyclinics which offer primary medical care can also serve as medical training centers. With the support of audio visual aids and interactive computer softwares, plus the assistance of dozens of specialists, Master degree and even Ph.D's holders, our results can compare and are even superior to those achieved by past methods used to train those who must ensure the health and well-being of the people.
Seven months ago I had the great satisfaction of meeting with 300 young people from Haiti, Guatemala and Honduras, who were in the midst of their last semester of studies and were about to return to their respective countries to work alongside brigades of Cubans specialized in General Comprehensive Medicine, who were working in the most far-flung corners of this region. They were accompanied by 50 young Cubans from the same level of studies. The results have been impressive. I promised them that I would attend their graduation ceremony, and here they are, as part of this very crowd, standing shoulder to shoulder like Spartan soldiers of Medicine, brandishing their victorious shields.
Glory be to these young people! Glory be to these new saviors of lives who are taking this noble medical profession to new heights of dedication and ethics, never before seen in this world! They embody the kind of doctors claimed for with desperate urgency by billions of people .
However, everything that I
have said so far pales in comparison to the colossal movement that is being
On October 3, they will begin their first-year studies in Medicine. In only ten years time, 40 thousand will be graduating.
Training a medical doctor in
12 000 doctors for
What is the secret? It lies in the solid fact that the human capital is worth far more than the financial capital. Human capital involves not only knowledge, but also – and this is essential – conscience, ethics, solidarity, truly humane feelings, spirit of sacrifice, heroism, and the ability to make a little go a long way.
Rich countries do just what
A report issued by the
United States 24 per cent
United Kingdom 32 per cent
The fact that these professionals leave their countries of origin means that, as the report points out, poor countries subsidise rich nations in this way with 500 million dollars every year.
These vast figures of which I speak are real and have their price in the capitalist market, but they do not require extensive material resources and can be, in fact, within the grasp of any country.
Conditions have been created
As a matter of fact, this program is already underway in 14 of the 24 ophthalmologic institutions that will become operational in our country by the end of this year. They have been equipped with the most advanced world-class technology available. Our country is now performing 1,500 eye surgeries per day.
This year we have reached the
figure of 50 000 Venezuelans from the Barrio Adentro
Mission who have undergone eye surgery as from the middle of January up until
today, August 20. In less than a month 1
093 people from the
It is important to note that every year, more than four and a half million people from Latin America and the Caribbean require this service, but do not receive it due to conditions of poverty, and more than half a million each year loose their sight, often without ever having been examined by a doctor.
Just as I did 40 years ago, please allow me to dream. The only difference being that now, after half a century of struggle, I am absolutely sure that no-one can say of our dreams what Calderon de la Barca once said: ¨...all life is a dream, and dreams themselves are only dreams. ¨
Let us march forward! Forward, all of you invincible standard-bearers of such a noble profession, in demonstration of the fact that all the gold in the world cannot subdue the conscience of a true guardian of health and life, who is ready to go to any country where its services are required, convinced that a better world is possible!
EVER ONWARDS TO VICTORY!