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Issue #1582      February 20, 2013

“I will be a doctor thanks to the Bolivarian Revolution”

Heidi Pérez comes from Jobure, a small town located in the state of Delta Amacuro (Venezuela’s east) and she is one of the 1,674 medical students coming from Latin America and Africa who embarked on a career in medicine in the Salvador Allende Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM, Spanish acronym), located in the state of Miranda, Venezuela.

When she speaks, you can see the innocence and energy of an 18-year-old. She vigorously and proudly states that she “will be a doctor thanks to the Bolivarian Revolution.”

Heidi was chosen by mid-2012 by an inter-institutional committee of the Ministry of People’s Power for University Education whose duty is to incorporate Venezuelan young people from far-away communities into the Training Program of Community Integral Doctors in the ELAM.

The ELAM is a humanist education centre that educates medical doctors with a socialist perspective. When students graduate from ELAM, they return to their communities to pay off the social debt regarding health care on a non-profit basis.

Furthermore, the ELAM was conceived as a strategic integration project of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). The ELAM’s medicine program is six years long and education there is totally free of charge. This initiative seeks to guarantee the access to health care in all the ALBA member countries and African countries.

“Last year ten Venezuelans entered the ELAM’s program. We all belong to the Warao tribe. Our town is four hours away from Tucupita (Delta Amacuro’s capital state), and to arrive there we have to cross the Orinoco River by boat,” Heidi tells.

My community needs me

In order to fulfil her dream to be a doctor, Heidi had to leave her town and family. She affirms that she saw what she is experiencing today as something impossible.

She does not deny the sacrifice that implies being away from her family. “There is not a telephone signal where I live. We do not have a fixed telephone at home either. My parents call me when they go to Tucupita every two weeks, or once a month sometimes. It is a sacrifice that will bring a reward because my goal is to graduate and go back home to help my people,” she explains.

Heidi’s wishes to improve the conditions of her community encouraged her to start her career in integral medicine. She experienced first hand what it feels not to rely on doctors and health care.

“I experienced traumatic experiences as a child. I watched many people die on the curiara (light, long canoe) because they did not arrive on time in the health centre in Tucupita to receive medical care. So when I was chosen I did not think twice, I could not lose this opportunity. My community needs me,” she says.

Exciting experience

Heidi is attending her first year of Community Integral Medicine and stresses that since she began her introductory course and fieldwork she has been further encouraged to serve and help others.

“It is an exciting experience. We study here all day and visit places no one dares to go to take care of patients. They are not merchandise, we see them as human beings that lack medical care and must be healed. We are studying to be always there with those in need, with our people,” she explains.

Venezuelaanalysis   

Next article – Fuelling resistance

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