The first batch of doctors to graduate from the Latin-American Medical School ‘Salvador Allende’ (ELAM), located on the outskirts of Caracas, received their degree certificatesdirectly from the President of the Republic this week, following the culmination of their six-year course.
The graduating students are the first to complete the rigorous program after the University was established in 2007, including four years of classroom, and two of work placement.
The ELAM receives students from previously excluded sectors of the Venezuelan society, but has become famous for fulfilling the internationalist medical model of Che Guevara- receiving students from across the globe, training them, and returning them to their home nations to practice what they have learnt. It was built by the ALBA alliance following the success of its predecessor in Havana, Cuba.
In this first graduation ceremony of the University, 108 students from Bolivia were graduated, 41 from Brazil, 29 from Peru, 24 from Colombia, 17 from Paraguay, 15 from Nicaragua, 14 from Ecuador, 12 from Chile, 6 from el Salvador, 3 from Surinam, 1 from Uruguay and 1 from Argentina. There are currently students enrolled from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, including an important presence of Palestinian students.
“Now you must return to your lands, to your peoples… because now you form part of a powerful army of dignity, of peace, an example of that it is possible to construct an alternative world” underlined Maduro at the act of graduation, where he received numerous gifts representing the various cultures of the students.
The ELAM also has a significant representation of indigenous students, allowing a repressed people to break through the social boundaries which previously inhibited them from such professions.
Maduro expressed his pleasure in graduating the first Chilean Mapuche doctor from the University: “to the first Mapuche Indian to graduate in Comprehensive Medicine, a shaman of the Mapuche Indians, hunted for centuries. She graduated dressed in toga and mortarboard, she looks beautiful, congratulations”.
The President reminded the newly qualified doctors that the first graduation from the ELAM was a dream of Hugo Chavez which he didn’t live to see in person: “When I gave in your deserved certificate to each of you, I felt a great emotion, because in each of these acts I feel the fulfillment of the an oath which we took. In each of these acts, I feel the presence of the strength of Chavez alive in you, in your looks, your eyes, your smiles, in your tears”.
“I remember coming with Chavez in 2006” Maduro went on to recount. “He was full of emotion as they were going to found this nucleus in Venezuela to create doctors for the countries of the South, for the peoples who struggle for their liberation”.
60,000 DOCTORS BY 2019
At the event, the President explained that by 2019, Venezuela should have 60,000 graduated, qualified doctors to attend to the needs of its people, thanks to the efforts of both the ELAM and the other public sector universities in the country which are training Venezuelan as doctors.
He explained that there are currently 47,000 medical students in the public universities, 18,000 of which are studying ‘Comprehensive Community Medicine’.
Comprehensive Community Medicineis “a humanist medicine at the service of the social human being”, which looks to “form doctors from a Latin-American, internationalist, Bolivarian, Chavista vision… a medicine which is preventative, community based, which goes out into the shantytowns” explained Maduro.
Comprehensive Community Medicine includes traditionalmedical practices, but also takes into account social, personal, and mental factors when diagnosing and treating, something which has been harshly criticized by the traditional schools of medicine. 14,500 doctors have already been certified as Comprehensive Community Doctors in Venezuela.
“They (the conservative sectors) with their superiority complex! We continue to build a human society based on equality, respect, solidarity, love, prosperity” exclaimed Maduro.
Previous to the 1998 Revolution, poorer sectors of the Venezuelan society had almost no access to the limited public health sector, which has since benefited from infrastructural expansion, as well as the widespread practicing and training at the hands of the Cuban doctors who have been sent to Venezuela.
ELAM TO BE EXPANDED AND MULTIPLIED
Maduro also unveiled plans to expand the ELAM and include it in a wider University of Health Sciences ‘Salvador Allende’, which will be constructed in 2014 in Caracas.
The new university will include courses related to medicine, such as bio analysis, dentistry, and nursing, whilst always focusing on the human being.Similarly, the creation of similar ELAM Universities in other ALBA countries is to be looked at.
“A true revolution is measured by its capacity to multiply its efforts. We have to keep multiplying the ELAM” he explained.
The Caracas ELAM nucleus expected to receive 250 foreign students in 2014, but, at the graduation ceremony, President Maduro ordered the expansion of the University: “I order that as of 2014, we receive at least 1,000 students per year”.
The ELAM is key, Maduro told the graduates, “to sustain and defend the rights of the poor, of the excluded, and to fulfill the duties and moral and ethical principles inherent in the degree of medicine”.
Finally, Maduro highlighted the need for the proposed new university to break the dependence on the multinational medical firms, both in the pharmaceutical and technological fields, by investigating and producing medical equipment, drugs, and tools.
“You (graduates) must keep advancing in your studies in this field. We can’t continue in this technological and scientific mismatch, this could produce a tragic dependency” he stated.