Earn a Medical Degree on Full Scholarship in Cuba

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2007 med school jpg.jpg
2007 med school jpg.jpg

Program overview

The Latin American School of Medicine (LASM), in Havana, Cuba, was founded in 1998, as Cuba's response to the devastation of Hurricanes Mitch and Georges.  Cuba understood that, if the poorest regions in our hemisphere were able to develop adequate healthcare infrastructures, they could save as many lives every year as had been lost in the hurricanes.  The Cubans offered full scholarships to enroll at LASM to young people from the nations affected by the hurricanes -- on the sole condition that, once they graduated, they would return to their home countries and offer low-cost health services in their own underserved communities.   

This exceptionally generous offer of a world-class full-scholarship medical education is also being extended to students from the US.

The offer to US students was made because of Cuba's recognition that millions in the US have little or no access to affordable health care; and that many young people in the US don't even dare to dream of studying medicine because of the economic costs.  Students from communities of color and low-income communities are especially encouraged to apply to the program.

IFCO is honored to administer and coordinate this groundbreaking scholarship program in the United States.

The Latin American School of Medicine is a six-year program of study, which includes two years of basic sciences, three years of classwork and clinical rotations at accredited teaching hospitals, and a rotatory clinical internship in the sixth year.  All classes are taught in Spanish; but a semester-long Spanish language intensive is offered to students who need it (prior to first year), along with a pre-med semester in which students can review pre-med sciences and improve their fluency in Spanish.  All students study at the LASM campus for the first two years, and then go to another of Cuba's 21 medical schools, which are located throughout the island, to complete their studies.

The Cuban medical training model combines theory and practice and is oriented toward primary care, community medicine, and hands-on clinical experience.  The teaching philosophy incorporates intensive advising and tutoring and is designed to help every student succeed. 

The Latin American School of Medicine admits approximately 1500 new students each year from 30 different nations of Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the United States.  More than 115 students from the US are currently enrolled in the scholarship program.  Seventeen US students have already graduated with MD degrees; several of them have already received residency placements; 17 more will graduate in 2009.      

The Latin American School of Medicine is officially recognized by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) and the World Health Organization.  It is also fully accredited by the Medical Board of California, which has the strictest US standards -- which means that qualified US graduates of the Latin American School of Medicine are eligible to apply for residency placements in any state of the US.   


The Latin American School of Medicine is located on the north coast of Cuba, a half-hour west of downtown Havana.  The campus, formerly a naval academy, was converted to its current use when the medical school was founded in 1998.  The campus has 28 buildings which house 80 classrooms, 37 laboratories, five amphitheaters, a library, dormitories, cafeterias, an infirmary, and other facilities.

Extracurricular activities include arts, sports, film, disco, the beach, and regular "Culture Night" activities in which the students - who represent more than 80 different ethnic groups - share aspects of their own cultures.

Applicant criteria

Applicants should:

  • Be US citizens (with US passport)
  • Be between the ages of 18 and 25
  • Have completed college-level pre-med science courses (one year each of biology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics, each with laboratory)
  • Be physically and mentally fit
  • Come from the humblest and neediest communities in the US
  • Be committed to practice medicine in poor and underserved US communities after graduation

Applicants will be carefully selected by the IFCO Medical School Advisory Committee, based on applications, transcripts, interviews, letters of reference, etc.  Final admissions decisions will be made by administrators of the Latin American School of Medicine and the Cuban Ministry of Public Health.


During the visit of a Congressional Black Caucus delegation to Cuba, which was organized by IFCO/Pastors for Peace in the year 2000, one of the Members of Congress remarked to President Castro that there are large areas in his home district that do not have a single physician. President Castro responded with an offer of full scholarships for students from low-income and medically underserved regions of the US to study medicine in Cuba. This offer was intended to be more than a short-term solution. It is the beginning of the creating of a heath care infrastructure for generations to come.

In his speech on Sept 8, 2000 at New York City's Riverside Church, President Castro said, "We are prepared to grant a number of scholarships to poor youth who cannot afford to pay the $200,000 it costs to get a medical degree in the US." Cuba is offering hundreds of full scholarships for students in underserved communities in the United States to study medicine in Cuba. Tuition, dormitory room and board, and textbooks are free of charge.

What we want from The Latin American School of Medical Sciences is for students from our sister nations to become imbued with the same doctrine in which our own doctors are educated, with that total devotion to their noble future profession - for a doctor is like a shepherd, a priest, a missionary, a crusader for the people's health and physical and mental well-being.
-- Cuban President Fidel Castro

In Cuba, health care is universal and free:

Cuba has continued to make health care a priority for its citizens.  Despite the effects of the suffocating US economic blockade, Cuba's public health care system is world-renowned. Cuba maintains one physician for every 168 people in the country and produces 2000 new physicians every year -- a remarkable number for any country of 11 million people. The infant mortality rate in Cuba is lower than in most cities in the US. The Cuban Ministry of Public Health maintains a neighborhood clinic, with a family doctor and a family nurse in residence and on 24-hour call, for every 120 Cuban families, in rural as well as in urban areas.  

Cuba is also a health care provider for the world:

  • Cuba has sent thousands of doctors and medical professionals to serve in the poorest areas of Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia
  • Cuba has treated more than 16,000 victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster
  • Cuba is organizing a health-care task force to tackle the problem of the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Cuba has done world-renowned work on developing vaccines and treatments for some of the world's most intractable diseases -- and makes them available around the world at low cost or no cost 
  • Cuba has trained thousands and thousands of doctors from Latin American and African nations - all free of charge

Now Cuba is reaching out to young people from underserved communities in the United States, to train doctors for the cities and rural areas and reservations where medical services are most desperately needed.

Please contact IFCO for application forms or additional information

  • For an overview of the program, please click here >
  • To request an application or additional information, please use the Medical School Program's contact form >
  • Media coverage and a brochure describing the program are attached to this post.

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