Dear Mentor:

Does Cuba really give medical school scholarships to US students?

Someone who traveled to Cuba in June of this year from my city, Fresno, California, reported that Fidel Castro offers 250 full medical scholarships per year to low income students from the US with the proviso that they return to practice medicine in their poor communities. This seemed like mere boastful ranting to me. Certainly, it doesn't seem feasible for an impoverished nation like Cuba. Can you inform me as to whether this is fact or fiction?

Cuban Medicine, Fresno, California, USA

Dear Cuban Medicine:

As you may know, the focus for iMahal is education and careers in the US, UK, India and Canada. We found your inquiry intriguing enough that we did some research to help prospective medical students in the US and elsewhere. It turns out that there is some truth and some exaggeration in what you have stated.

The Cuban government launched a program to train foreign students in medicine from mostly poor Latin American or African countries. Last year, Castro decided to include US racial or ethnic minority students on the condition that they practice in underserved communities when they return. This year, only 8 students from the US have decided to enter the program. Despite the US embargo against Cuba, these students can pursue their education in Cuba without violating the embargo. You can read article in several places, such as the Boston Globe, the Detroit News, and the Global Exchange.

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