The humanistic vocation learned at the Latin American School of Medicine of Cuba (ELAM) is what guides African-American doctor Melissa Barber today in her fight against Covid-19 in a community in New York.
For Barber, medical care does not start with an ambulance transfer to the hospital, but with neighborhood organization and a deep familiarity with the needs of the neighbors, it is with this concept that helps to mobilize the response to the pandemic in his southern community from the Bronx.
When the young doctor graduated from ELAM more than a decade ago was asked if her approach has to do with her professional training in Cuba, she answered “absolutely”. Anyone who has received training in the Cuban medical system, – she stated – knows how to assess the health of a community and examine what is happening in emergency situations. It is about being able to assess who are the most vulnerable people.
We want to make sure no one is left behind, says Dr. Melissa when describing to Indypendent.org the situation in the South Bronx. There they are responding to problems similar to those of other cities and states: a high number of cases with super-crowded hospitals where it is difficult to contain the number of people who enter to be treated or evaluated with symptoms of fever or pneumonia or with signs similar to that of flu.
She considered that medium that, unlike her country, a key idea of the Cuban Revolution is that everyone , as a human right, has access to health and education. “Cuba believes that it is the guardian of its brother and sister. So when a sister nation is affected by a disaster or seeks access to medical care or education for its people, Cuba will help. It is one of the basic principles of the nation “she stressed.
This is how Cuba sent medical brigades not only to northern Italy, but also to Suriname, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Jamaica, Granada and China to combat Covid-19. Something that the doctors who make up these missions understand is that “they often go to some of the most remote regions of these countries and make medical care available to people who would not normally have access to it,” he said.
During the interview, Barber rejected Washington’s policies towards the biggest of the Antilles , because “unfortunately in the United States, we have a story that has been dedicated to demonizing Cuba.” In this sense, she regretted the positions of some right-wing governments in Latin America that have tried (following the White House line) to denigrate Cuban doctors.
“We know they are lies and, of course, if it were not so, from those same nations they would not be asking them to return.” In turn, Barber praised the preventive work being carried out in the Caribbean country to stop the Covid-19 with the participation, for example, of medical students “who are knocking on doors to ensure that no one has respiratory symptoms or similar to influenza that are specific to the coronavirus. “
After listing some of the measures they implement in Cuba, she summarized that “they are capable of handling a crisis like this, because they have dealt with emergency situations before and as a nation they are unified.”
Part of those nearly 200 United States health professionals trained at ELAM, Mellissa Barber is the coordinator of that scholarship program through the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) / Pastors for Peace. Their commitment like that of the rest of the graduates of that project and those of others in the future is to return to their communities after graduating to serve in them. And so she did.