More Cuban doctors look overseas for better opportunities. But those who flee to the U.S. to reboot their lives and practice medicine are facing real challenges.
CCTV America’s Nitza Soledad reported this story from Miami.
Cuban doctors facing challenges due to US RegulationsMore Cuban doctors look overseas for better opportunities. But those who flee to the U.S. to reboot their lives and practice medicine are facing real challenges. CCTV America's Nitza Soledad reported this story from Miami.
Doctor Lester Trastoy came to Miami almost three years ago. He risked the 90 mile ocean trip in a home, made boat, a familiar experience to some in the Cuban exile community, to work as a doctor in the U.S.
“When I got here it was very hard, you know, I worked as a driver, I drove a truck which was a thing that I never did before,” Trastoy said.
After a few months, he could not take it anymore and quit his job. That is the story for most foreign doctors that arrive in the U.S. and end up working as waiters or taxi drivers.
The path to becoming a licensed doctor in the U.S. begins with an application to a private nonprofit organization that can verify transcripts and diplomas from medical schools.
Applicants must prove they speak English; pass three separate tests administered by the United States Medical Licensing Examination program; obtain U.S. recommendation letters after volunteer work or being employed at a hospital or medical organization; and either be a permanent resident or obtain a work visa.
Once requirements are fulfilled, applicants hope they are accepted in America’s medical residency system. Cuban doctors have one small advantage though: they get work visas within a few weeks of their arrival.
Doctor Julio Cesar Alfonso, with Solidarity without Borders, helps medical professionals to make that transition.
“In my opinion, there is total discrimination, let me tell you, 95 percent of the medical residency positions that are available annually go to graduates of American medical schools,” CEO of Solidarity without Borders Dr.Alfonso said.
Doctor Lisandra Santos, fled from a Cuban medical mission in Venezuela and arrived over a year ago in the U.S.
“The hardest thing for me has been not having enough time to study, feeling alone, feeling that the process is too hard and long, and witnessing how many people just give up on the tests and how others do not get the residency because they are too old,” Santos said.
Doctors Trastoy and Santos, currently work as medical assistants. In Florida, the average salary for that position ranges from $10 to $12 an hour.
The Association of American Medical colleges estimated that the U.S. will face a shortage of more than 130,600 physicians by 2025.