Cuban-Trained Medical Students join UKZN for Clinical Training

Eighty-five Medical students who underwent five years of training in Cuba have been welcomed back “home” at UKZN.

The College of Health Sciences (CHS) hosted a welcoming and orientation programme for the students in the Nelson Mandela-Fidel Castro Cuban Collaboration Programme (NMFCCP) and will now undergo 18 months of clinical training at KwaZulu-Natal hospitals.

The NMFCCP forms part of a bi-national agreement between South Africa and Cuba that was signed by former presidents Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro. It aims to alleviate the shortage of medical skills in South Africa.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the College Professor Busisiwe Ncama, warmly welcomed the students and assured them that UKZN will walk together with them through this 18-month journey. ‘Your arrival comes at a time when the province of KwaZulu-Natal is experiencing high rates of COVID-19 infection. We are excited to welcome you as doctors who have been specifically trained in primary health-care delivery, health promotion, health education and the prevention of diseases. We know that preventative medicine is key when managing COVID-19 infections. We have a lot to learn from you so that we can build a strong and sustainable public health system in South Africa,’ said Ncama.

Dean of the School of Clinical Medicine Professor Ncoza Dlova encouraged the students to work hard, remain focused, and to seek help if needed. ‘It is not how you start the race but how you end it that will determine if you win or lose,’ she said.

In his address, Head and Dean of the School of Nursing and Public Health, Professor Mosa Moshabela said, ‘We recognise that you were trained in Spanish but you now need to come up to speed with English and isiZulu which will assist you to better advocate for your patients. Moreover, the new normal posed by COVID-19 requires all of us to adhere to precautionary guidelines to protect ourselves and those around us.’

Director of Professional Services in the College, Professor Fanie Botha noted that the students will be rotated through clinical blocks such as surgical practice, obstetrics and gynaecology, internal medicine, child health, primary care, and mental health. The training will take place in teaching hospitals accredited by the Health Professions Council of South Africa through the Decentralised Clinical Training Platform, which uses the Community Based Training in Primary Health Care Model. This platform is a collaborative initiative by UKZN and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health.

The orientation also focused on mental health and student support services provided by the College.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Supplied