HAVANA TIMES, 23 nov. — On November 14, 1965 Cuba graduated its first doctors who began their medical education with the new Revolutionary government. Their graduation ceremony was held at the summit Pico Turquino, the highest point in Cuba. Officiating over the ceremony was Fidel Castro.
For the past two weeks there had been rumors circulating the Latin American School of Medicine that one of the Castro brothers would be visiting to celebrate the 45th anniversary of this graduation. These rumors were seemingly confirmed late last week as we saw fresh coats of paint being applied to buildings around the schools theater. Buildings out of sight of the area around the theater were not treated a facelift. As things often turn out here at ELAM the rumors amounted to nothing more than rumors and neither Fidel nor Raul participated in what turned out to be an emotional reunion of the first doctors of the Cuban Revolution.
The doctors arrived in the same undistinguished yellow school busses that are used by workers and students. As the smoke belching machines quieted their growling motors and the old doctors made their way into the parking lot jubilation ensued. Old eyes squinted behind glasses to make out faces of comrades that had weathered decades of life in the Caribbean. Embraces were long and frequent.
The atmosphere made its way from the parking lot into the theater as it took several attempts to get the long parted friends to quiet down their reminiscing. The ceremony began with documentary footage of that day on Pico Turquino 45 years ago. A youthful Fidel Castro was stroking his beard and speaking about the changes that would be made to medicine in Cuba. There was talk of preventing diseases, of vaccines for all, of attention to the campesinos, who had never had the privilege of even a basic physical exam, and of treating medical care as a human right accessible by all.
From Pico Turquino to the 45th anniversary of the event last weekend these doctors have taken these words to hand. They have given their lives in Angola, Playa Giron, and Guinea Bissau. They have worked within a system that has been denied supplies by a blockade imposed by the United States and by the bureaucratic process of their own government. They have traveled the world as medics and teachers to share their knowledge of the Cuban model.
The Rector of ELAM was very strong to emphasize that latter part: The Cuban Model. During his presentation my generation was informed that we are now in charge of mobilizing the Cuban model and the model of the Cuban doctor. And while the first part of that charge might raise more questions than shouts of venceremos the second part, the part about the model of the Cuban doctor, resonates deeply.