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Cuban Medical Degrees Recognized by Argentina
Gloria Giraldo, MPH with Conner Gorry

July 3, 2007 – Argentina’s government announced its decision June 22 to honor medical degrees from Cuba, affecting over one thousand Argentinean graduates and current students at Havana’s Latin American Medical School (ELAM), and other Cuban higher education institutions.

The agreement was the result of years of bilateral consultations and analysis of the ELAM curriculum, which Argentinean authorities concluded was comparable to their domestic medical school course of study. Both governments also recognized the decision as a positive step for Latin American regional integration. Argentina is a pioneer in recognizing the ELAM degree, along with most countries of the English-speaking Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, and the United States.[2]


Argentina’s future doctors take a break from studying. From left: Daniela Paez, Eugenia Amarelle, Anastasia Regalado

Argentinean students at the Havana ELAM campus said they were relieved to hear the news, bringing them one step closer to medical practice.  But they also noted that jobs are still scarce in Argentina’s health sector. Taking a break from studying for final exams, first-year student Anastasia Regalado, from the province of Santiago del Estero told Cuba Health Reports: “this issue dominated our agenda at the first congress of Argentinean medical students in Cuba, earlier this year. The recognition of our degree opens many doors for us.” 

The students said the decision has immediate implications for them, as they gear up to donate one week of their summer break to conduct health assessments and education campaigns in their home provinces. They note that recognition of the quality of their education should make communities and local health institutions more receptive to incorporating their skills. students are given full, six-year scholarships by the Cuban go vernment in return for a non-binding commitment to practice medicine in underserved communities; over 10,000 students from around the world— the overwhelming majority from the Global South—have taken Cuba up on the offer. Despite ELAM’s trailblazing strategy for alleviating the global crisis in human resources for health, these new doctors, like any around the world, are worried about finding a job after graduation. Eugenia Amarelle, from Argentina’s Jujuy Province, says “recognizing the degree is a major step. It increases our chances of finding work when we return; but even doctors graduating from Argentinean schools are having a tough time finding jobs.”  Daniela Paez, from Santa Fe, also sees the new agreement as a major step in “a journey that will help me and other students here reach our goal of providing medical care in areas of greatest need, particularly in the northern and southern provinces.” Indeed, geographic disparities in access to health services are a serious problem in Argentina, as in many countries. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), distribution of health professionals varies greatly in the country, from one doctor for every 132 inhabitants in the most developed provinces, to one for every 500 inhabitants in the most remote, underserved areas.[3] imbalance is partly because “there is no integral health program, reflecting a lack of planning and equitable distribution of resources,” a MERCOSUR report found. Despite this, “it is possible to extend health services to the entire population,” if all sectors involved in population health were integrated, the report concluded.[4] And this includes the country’s new doctors.

“The challenge now is to motivate these young health professionals to return to their communities [and] also for the health system to create viable, sustainable primary and preventive care programs,” says Daniel Gutierrez Rainer, Director of Student Affairs and Professor of Nursing and Medicine at Adventist University in Entre Ríos province. “Cuba’s health strategies and curricula are needs-based and these students will enrich the Argentinean system with this approach.” 

Other countries which have yet to recognize the ELAM degrees—despite continued pressure from graduates, health policy advocates, and underserved populations—include Brazil and Honduras.

Notes & References

  1. 1.   There are currently students from 29 countries studying on full scholarships at the Latin American Medical School. 
  2. 2.   The nearly 100 US students studying at the Latin American Medical School – as with any foreign medical graduates wishing to practice in the USA – must pass the US Medical Licensing Exams (USMLEs or the “boards”), the standardized tests for new MDs; several ELAM-educated doctors have done so already.
  3. 3.   Pan American Health Organization. Salud de las Américas 2002. Washington, DC.
  4. 4.   Miras-Calvo N. Araujo M. Klein V. Una Aproximación al Sistema de Salud en Argentina. Foro de Investigación: Envejecimiento de la población en el MERCOSUR. 2001 Nov: Curritiba, Brazil.

For more information:

Latin American Medical School Official Site 

Latin American Medical School Overview & Data 

Application to the Latin American Medical School for US students is coordinated by the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization/Pastors for Peace, a humanitarian group based in New York.



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