On August 10th, Kunle Ekunkonye arrived in Boston from his home in Miami to promote his new documentary, « Community Doctors. » The film highlights Cuba’s medical scholarship program for young people from around the world, but especially focuses on U.S. students at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). Kunle wrote, directed and filmed the documentary. His brother, Akin Ekunkonye, graduated from ELAM in July and is credited as the producer of the film.
Kunle is a software engineer and this is his first film. Visiting his brother at ELAM awakened such passion and interest that he decided to dedicate a period of four years to making a documentary that would help inform the world about this valuable project that has graduated 24,000 doctors from some 120 countries.
« I wanted to show that this program trains very high-level professionals, people who are doing very good work in the United States. It is an opportunity for very low-income people who cannot afford to enter medical schools and in Cuba have the opportunity to become good doctors for free, » Kunle Ekunkonye states.
Over 24,000 doctors from some 120 countries have graduated from ELAM. Photo: Yaimí Ravelo
I am grateful for the ELAM program and I hope that people understand the humanism of Cuba when they watch the documentary and accept it as something great. Cuba has demonstrated what can be done without much technology or money; what can be achieved with education. »While in Boston, Kunle was interviewed by Yadires Nova-Salcedo on WBZ’s weekly CBS program « Centro » which focuses on issues of importance to the Latino community in New England. The entire interview with excerpts from the film is available HERE
Kunle was also featured in an interview on WZBC Radio at Boston College for the Truth and Justice Radio show.
He answered questions following the screening of « Community Doctors » in a large auditorium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Many prospective medical students attended the program which was co-sponsored by Science for the People, the July 26th Coalition, the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity and the National Network on Cuba.
Although it is a resource-poor country Cuba has developed a highly effective medical system. Their health outcomes are on par with those of the United States. Cuba has provided thousands of doctors to work in medically underserved areas in countries around the world to restore those communities from the impact of natural disasters, epidemics and the widespread lack of medical care.
In 1999 Cuba opened the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) to give medical scholarships to the brightest from poor areas around the world so that they may become doctors that will eventually return and serve the communities from which they came.
Due to decades of political animosity between the United States and Cuba, of which have only recently began to normalize, information about Cuba has been relatively scant. Despite the impasse in diplomatic relations, Cuba provided the offer of free medical scholarships for students in the United States.
The film tells the story of the medical scholarship program and the young Americans, many from poor and underserved communities in the United States, who were awarded full scholarships to study medicine at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, Cuba. The program is a 6-7 year, fully Spanish, hands-on experience that prepares students to become doctors that are skilled at preventing diseases and treating patients in low-resource conditions with an interwoven focus on community building. At a time when Cuba itself remained off-limits to most Americans, the students and graduates of ELAM share their experiences, challenges, lessons and hopes as they are fully immersed in a new culture while learning a unique and radically different approach to medicine and healthcare
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