Update from US Students studying Medicine in Cuba

J.M. Souers and V. Lezcano at the Institute of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (January 2009)
J.M. Souers and V. Lezcano at the Institute of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology

Joanna Mae Souers, a US student studying at the Latin American Medical School (ELAM) in Havana, has sent us this update on her studies. For additional information on the ELAM program you can other posting at this link:

January 2009

Every year, at the beginning of second semester, second-year students of the Latin American School of Medicine (Project ELAM), are responsible for choosing an elective course. 108 courses are offered on a variety of themes including, Microbiology, Pathology, Anatomy, Histology, History, Geography, Math, Medicine and Culture, etc.

Some of the courses I found more interesting include: “Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Pediatrics,” at the Pediatric Hospital of Central Havana, “Bacterial Diagnosis of Respiratory Illnesses,” at Hospital Calixto Garcia, and “The Practice and Theory Behind Sexually Transmitted Diseases” at the Ramon Gonzalez Coro Hospital of Gyno-obstretics. Some other students may have chosen “Preventative Detection of Cervical Cancer Associated with STDs,” “Acupuncture,” “Obesity Treatment,” “Effects of Electrical Current on the Human Body,” “Nanotechnology,” or even “Religions of African Origin and Health Care.”

After course selections were listed, I was pleased to be placed in “Preparation of Histological Slides for Morfophysiology,” a course in the theoretical and practical techniques of preparing and mounting histology slides. The course included several classes in the basic preparation of slides using different preservation, coloration and mounting techniques and a trip to the Herber Biotech Institute of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology here in Havana, Cuba.

At the institute, doctors and technicians analyze trials to develop new vaccines, methods of diagnosis and new pharmaceuticals every year. We met with Dr. Viviana Falcon Cama, the director of the Electron Microscope Laboratory, who gave us an introductory overview of the institute and a history of the microscope.

Students practicing their technique with the ultramicrometer

Students practicing their technique with the ultramicrometer

After the introduction we were shown the step-by-step the process of preparing slides from samples of rat cerebrum infected with dengue fever. The samples were prepared using immunotechnological techniques to tag traces of dengue virus with gold particles to identify infected samples with the electron microscope.

We started the process with preserving the prepared sample tissue in resin, processed the resin imbedded samples using an ultramicrometer and finished the process mounting the samples on thin copper discs. After the preparation process we viewed our samples with the electron microscope.
The course was a success. It was a phenomenal experience and my first opportunity to manipulate an electron microscope. I was fascinated by the work they are accomplishing at the institute and amazed at the technology and tools available for research. Most people believe Cuba is suffering from a lack of resources. Though the embargo has greatly affected their ability to do business with many countries, they work hard to stay on the cutting edge of medical research and education.

written by Joanna Mae Souers

posted by Matt Anderson, MD

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3 Responses to “Update from US Students studying Medicine in Cuba”

  1. 1mohammed sanwar hussain

    i want to study mbbs full free in cuba.please help me in this bcause iam not getting any information for that in bagladesh

  2. 2bronxdoc

    You should contact the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO). Their website is: http://www.ifconews.org/ and their phone number is: 212.926.5757.
    Best of luck, Matt Anderson, MD

  3. 3Cebonie Sawyers

    I want to study medicine in cuba.

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