Medicine, the Most Sought-after University Degree

Rosa Martinez

Cuban medical students. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — Entrance exams for university took place about 15 days ago here in Cuba. Thousands of young people from every province are waiting to find out what course they will get, their future depends on it, the future of this country too.

It’s not that there aren’t very many options, but the number of places in Higher Education are becoming less and less; a suppressed reality that had to come to light someday, it makes no sense that a country as poor as ours has so many university graduates completing their studies every year, for their talents to then be wasted in state companies or organizations, that is to say, where we have two or three graduates when really we only need one.

Among the many degrees that 12th grade students have access to right now – in all fields, that is to say, exact sciences, humanities, economics, agriculture, education, engineering… – one has become the most sought-after, and even though it’s the degree that has the most placements, it still isn’t enough.

I’m referring to Medicine, which has more and more fans in a country with a depressing economy, extremely low salaries, where professionals are the ones who suffer the most, as they have very few opportunities to survive or get by, as we say on the street.

Among the younger generations’ motivations for studying some speciality in Health, is firstly the fact that doctors’ current salaries, who just come out of university, are 1,400 Cuban pesos (70 USD), which is nothing compared to what doctors earn in other countries, but it’s triple the average Cuban salary and it can even be 4 times more than what most Cubans generally earn.

Another point that catches their attention, especially the attention of their parents – who are always on the lookout for their children’s welfare – are international missions abroad, which not only give them the opportunity to get to know other places in the world – which would be nearly impossible for the majority- but it also gives them the opportunity to emigrate in this way (not to the United States anymore, at least not by legal means) to any country that offers them a more secure future or, at least, with less financial problems, although the majority of “defectors” (as the Government calls them) can hardly work in their specialty.

With these missions, Public Health personnel have the opportunity to bring back some products that are excessively expensive in Cuba, such as clothes from Venezuela and electrical appliances in the case of African countries and Haiti. At the end of the mission, they also have access to a bank account with several thousand CUC, which they can then use to resolve their most pressing needs and even buy a house.

It’s therefore not surprising that with all of the incentives, young people today don’t envision a better option than to study Medicine, as a way to have a normal life here, even those who have no vocation whatsoever to save lives, much less to care for people.

Rosa Martínez

Rosa Martinez: I am another Havana Times contributing writer, university professor and mother of two beautiful and spoiled girls, who are my greatest joy. My favorite passions are reading and to write and thanks to HT I’ve been able to satisfy the second. I hope my posts contribute towards a more inclusive and more just Cuba. I hope that someday I can show my face along with each of my posts, without the fear that they will call me a traitor, because I’m not one.

Rosa Martínez has 150 posts and counting. See all posts by Rosa Martínez

11 thoughts on “Medicine, the Most Sought-after University Degree

  • Your imagination Rich Haney runs riot. I cannot assist you in endeavoring to overcome what appears to be an inferiority complex.
    With regard to Moses Patterson and myself, we do not know each other and have never communicated with each other. I am prepared to accept that you have greater knowledge about clowns than others.

  • Although it was not for half a century, Britain was effectively embargoed during the Second World War by Germany. Hundreds of ships supplying food were sunk with thousands of lives being lost. Once a week during morning prayers, we children at school sang:
    ‘For those in peril on the sea’
    As children we knew that feeding us was costing lives. But in contrast to Cuba, the UK substantially increased food production. At intervals in the cities there were bins called ‘Pig Bins’ where anything edible could be contributed to be collected to feed pigs. Nothing went to waste – Cuba is littered with garbage, both in the cities and along the coastline.
    The reaction of the UK Government under Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was to increase industrial and agricultural production a reflection of both managerial efficiency and the will power of a population which unlike Cubans enthusiastically supported its government.
    In contrast, the Castro regime has by its policies caused hundreds of thousands of acres of good agricultural land to revert to bush. Agricultural production has declined year after year until Cuba now has to import over 80% of food requirements. Industry staggers along being unable to even meet internal requirements. These factors are not a consequence of the embargo but of the sheer incompetence of the ‘Socialismo’ system and the indifference of a repressed population.

  • Because you disagree with me and you seem to lack both historical and contemporaneous evidence to support your disagreement, you resort to petty name-calling? Is calling me a bully your best punch?

  • I deny the premise that US law was the primary driver behind record-breaking Cuban defections. The failure of Castro-style socialism and the oppression of Castro tyranny has sent millions of Cubans packing in search of a better life. The former WF/DF policy simply facilitated Cubans desire to escape the Castro dictatorship. Most Cubans, who left Cuba in the first and second wave of Cuban immigrants left Cuba with barely the shirts on their back. The “raping and robbing” that took place was carried out by the Castro government on those Cubans that Fidel himself called “gusanos”. Homes, jewelry and other personal belongings were stolen by the regime.

  • And, Moses, what you “choose” to ignore are facts such as “Wet Foot-Dry Foot” and a vast litany of U. S. laws favoring Cuban exiles and encouraging defections, which grossly, unfairly and undemocratically favored-favors such Cuban exiles and defections. Also, right after a near-decade of raping and robbing the island, beginning in 1959 much of that Batistiano-Mafiosi loot gave certain people a huge advantage in shaping and re-shaping the Miami skyline. Can you, uh…deny either of those premises. If so, do it by all means.

  • In my “ignorance,” Carlyle, I care about holier-than-thou braggarts in a foreign nation harming and belittling far more innocent and smarter people in a smaller country. By the definitions of a quintessential bully, I guess that makes me “ignorant” and you a genius, right? And by the way, your propaganda act alongside Moses reminds me of the great Abbott & Costello comedy team, except they were hilariously funny.

  • Moses, I think that Haney in his ignorance thinks that you are originally Cuban. Maybe you should point out the US history of people bearing your name?

  • I would never suggest that EVERY Cuban wants to escape Castro tyranny. But, in the parlance of Texas Hold’em, I will match every well-to-do Cuban who has chosen to remain and raise you 3 for 1 for those Cubans who decided to defect. The truth that you seem to want to ignore is that in spite of the neglible impact on the US embargo on life in Cuba, it is the internal embargo that causes the most grief.

  • The top students in our community pursue law. For example, the pre-university school in our community produced only two students who qualified to study law at Havana, but over a dozen to study medicine.
    It is reflective that Rosa doesn’t even mention law. But although far fewer lawyers are required under the communist system, they are essential in a country where the accused are guilty until proven innocent.

  • Moses, have people like you living well in a foreign country contributed to the fact that there are “many more opportunities for a better life outside of Cuba” than on the island? I mean…if the world’s economic and military superpower had embargoed England or Canada or Mexico for half-a-century, would you be able to say the same thing about those nations? At the same time, via Facebook and fair reports from Cuba by the BBC and Reuters, we know of many, many twentysomething Cubans — Cristina Escobar, Rosy Amaro Perez, Jennifer Bello Martinez, etc., etc. — who have had every opportunity and even lucrative offers to defect TO OR TO REMAIN IN THE U. S. AND PARTAKE OF the riches IN Miami but choose to live…and enjoy…their island. Thus, suggesting every Cuban needs or wants to grab an inner-tube and cross the Florida Straits is simply not true.

  • Going into medicine for other than altruistic reasons is nothing new and occurs all over the world. The difference between choosing to be a doctor in Cuba in comparison to the same choice elsewhere is a matter of degrew. A Cuban doctor has so many more opportunities for a better life outside of Cuba that talented young people in Cuba who might have otherwise chosen other elite professions had they been in another country, choose medicine in Cuba. Would-be future engineers, college professors, lawyers and scientists in Cuba instead choose health care professions.

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