Cuban Medical Education: Graduating a Superb Class of Doctors
CubaHeal Research Department
A new approach to medical education in Cuba is developing. The approach encompasses sweeping new and advanced methods while deepening effective educational methods. The objective of these changes is to achieve the following:
- Enhance the practical training and knowledge base in order to address the need of a diverse population by producing a generation competent doctors with a deep knowledge base and scope of obligations and responsibilities
- Produce, via extensive training an army of scientifically oriented and socially committed students
These two principals were the cornerstone in guiding the establishment of successful and innovative Cuban medical education system, at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Havana was the first to adopt said reforms back in the 1960. In spite of the resistance to a universal public healthcare and national primary healthcare to the populous. Such reforms were a major positive contributor to extending medical services to the deprived rural areas of the island and addressed the urgent need of establishing a training program for hundreds of doctors and physicians prepared and committed to this new vision.
As an initial commitment, and in 1959, students in their final year of medical training program held a series of heated meetings in order to vote on these new moral principles. The end result was an overwhelming vote in support of a decision to send hundreds of volunteers to where they were most needed, hence the establishment of the “Cuban camp”.
The principled students at the University of Havana elevated their initiative to the Ministry of Public Health, which swiftly agreed to establish 318 new jobs to serve the mountains areas. This was the origin of the “Rural Medical Services” program which attributed to the involvement of hundreds of new graduates over the next decade and lay the groundwork for the laws that would establish community service as a requirement.
Historical milestones of the Republic of Cuba’s Medical Education
- 1726: The first medical program was established in Cuba
- 1728: The establishment of the University of Havana, including Faculty of Medicine
- 1842: The University of Havana adopts a reformed medical curriculum with focus on scientific principles that involved the introduction of clinical medicine
- 1919: The establishment of a six-year Flexnerian modeled program to govern the basic, preclinical and clinical sciences
- 1942: The improvement of the Flexnerian modeled program to govern the individual patient care, which included a teaching hospital for students, interns and residents
- 1956: The University of Havana was shut down as per General Batista’s orders
- 1959: The Faculty of Medicine of the University is re-established with 23 professors
- 1963: An Emergency program was introduced to address the urgent need of training medical teams to handle the shortfall in public health care
- 1970: The creation of primary model and primary care; community-based integrated polyclinics programs
- 1976: The supervision of medical education became one of the Republic of Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health duties.
- 1976: The Higher Institutes of Medical Sciences in Havana, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba was established
- 1980: The establishment of 54 medical schools offering various medical specializations and covered all Cuban provinces
- 1982: The strengthening of the selection criteria of medical students include vocational, motivational, as well as academic performance.
- 1982 – 1985: Curricular reform for obtaining the Basic General Practitioner (BGP) for the family doctor program which offers more training in community based settings that emphasis on the medical school campus and hospital servicing
- 1984: The family physician program was introduced
- 1984: The creation of a comprehensive General/ Family Medicine program as a new medical specialty
- 1986: The application of the first national practical and theoretical licensing examinations are applied with the utilization of external inspectors
- 1996: The strengthening of the “Pillars of quality” assurance for medical education program, which resulted in stronger requirements for accreditation of established medical universities and centers.
- 1996: The enforcement of the medical education credit system
- 1997: The establishment of Master in Medical Education program
- 1999: The establishment of the Latino Medical School (ELAM)