ELAM Graduates


Photo: Bill Hackwell

We have invited U.S. youth who have graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) to join us in Washington DC

ELAM, as it is known, is a unique international medical school created by the Cuban government in 1999 to train students from poor communities in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the United States to be doctors. Students get free tuition, accommodation and a small stipend. The only requirement is that graduates return to practice medicine in under-served communities in their own countries. The school has so far graduated more than 20,000 students, including close to 150 Americans. More are currently enrolled.

Our ELAM Guests include:

Dr. Abraham Vela, graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM)  in Cuba, 2016

As a child Abraham grew up between the Bay Area and Guatemala. He was able to navigate both worlds just fine. Even though Guatemala and the U.S. are different places,  he saw the same injustices, the same poverty, violence, lack of access to education and health. At the age of 18 he was given the opportunity to be part of an incredible project in San Francisco State University. Alongside a passionate group of people, they opened a student run clinic in San Francisco’s Mision District. Ten years later this clinic continues to provide free health services, always with a culturally competent and humanistic approach to medicine. Through this clinic, Abraham worked alongside professor Felix Kury at SFSU, and he informed Abraham about a medical school in Cuba. A school that trains students from the most vulnerable communities in the world with only one condition, a moral contract to return to our underserved communities and be the leaders, physicians, and support that our communities need. In September of 2010, Vela started his medical education at the Latin American School of Medicine. he graduated in 2016 as a physician of science and consciousness. He never lost track of the commitment he made to the Cuban people, his community, and humanity and a year after graduation and board exams, he is the process of applying to residency in the U.S.

Dr. Lucia Perez Agudelo, graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Cuba, 2017

Lucia Agudelo was born and raised in Bogota-Colombia and migrated to the San Francisco Bay Area at the age of 17, fleeing the political turmoil and economic instability that plagued her home country.  She began her political science studies at City College of San Francisco, eventually transferring to UC Berkeley, where she graduated with a double major in Political Science and Development studies in 2005. She served as a research assistant and Proxy in the department of Political Sciences at UC Berkeley, and worked as the coordinator of the Alumni Mentoring program at City College of San Francisco during the same period.

She took her first steps in the medical field by training as a paramedic in San Francisco, giving her a broader understanding of global health care disparities and a deeper sense of humanism. She volunteered at Clinica Martin Baro, a student-ran community clinic that serves the uninsured population of the San Francisco Mission District, focusing on preventive and integrative health care for migrant workers affected by absurd economic policies.

Her interest in global health and political and socio-economic disparities brought her to work in Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua, where she served as a Medical Delegation Coordinator, overseeing logistics and translation services for physicians tending to the medical needs of Hurricane Mitch survivors. During her stay in Nicaragua, she began working with Inhijambia, a local NGO assisting young women victims of abuse and sexual assault.

Upon her return to the United states, Lucia continued her work as an advocate for gender equality and immigrants’ rights at WOMAN Inc, a non- profit organization that serves survivors of domestic violence. As the Latina Program Coordinator, she worked with community organizations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations to ensure integrative care including health, legal, and housing services among others.

Her life experience, international work, and commitment to the dignity, health, and well-being of marginalized communities granted her a full scholarship to the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, Cuba on 2011. She earned her medical degree in July of 2017, having served as a representative for the women’s group of the US delegation, a class co-rep, and as a nominated member to represent the delegation during Barak Obama’s visit to Cuba in 2016.

Lucia considers Cuba a second home, and though is grateful to their people for their generosity, solidarity and integrity, she is also looking forward to coming back to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she will continue to work with the immigrant population, advocating for quality, humane, universal health care, and serving as an active agent for change in her community.

Dr. Gregory Wilkinson, graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine in (ELAM) Cuban 2010, member of the Henry Reeves Cuban International Medical Brigade since the earthquake in Haiti

Dr. Mercedes Charles, graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Cuba, 2017

Mercedes Charles is a 2017 graduate of the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). Mercedes was raised in Northern Virginia. From an early age her parents instilled the principles of higher education, diligence, and community. She saw the importance of service in her hometown of Woodbridge through her family businesses and her volunteer activities at Potomac Hospital.  She attained a B.S. in Biology from George Mason University and A.A.S in Medical Laboratory Technology from NVCC before setting her sights on medical school.  In 2010, she did 1 year of Intensive Spanish in Cuba, before starting her medical studies. She reflects that her medical education has been a pivotal point in her life, showing her what true solidarity, altruism, and humanitarianism encompass.  She firmly believes Cuba has shown solidarity with the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and the USA in spite of the economic sanctions. The political policies of the nation have tangible effects on both Cuban and US citizens and must be changed. She is passionate about social justice, health equity, increasing health literacy, and delivering conscientious healthcare. She is currently living in Eugene, Oregon and volunteering for Occupy Medical while preparing for Match 2018. Her field of interest is Rural Family Medicine/Emergency medicine.

Dr. David Lavender, graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Cuba, 2017

David Lavender, 2017 graduate of the Latin American School of Medicine. Born and raised in St Louis, Missouri, lived ten years in the Northwest farming, and lived seven years in Cuba studying medicine.  Currently applying for medical residencies in primary care.