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Revolutionary medicine: Dr. Rose goes to Haiti

April 15, 2010

Part 1: An interview with Dr. Melissa Rose – meet her Wednesday, April 21, 6:30 p.m., at the Jazz Heritage Club, 1330 Fillmore St., San Francisco, for a life-transforming evening of films and in depth discussion about the challenges facing the Haitian people and how we can help

by POCC Minister of Information JR

Here’s Dr. Melissa Rose (wearing dark glasses) with her colleagues in Haiti. Come meet Dr. Rose at the Jazz Heritage Club, on Wednesday, April 21, at 1330 Fillmore St. in San Francisco at 6:30 p.m. in a "Back from Haiti Report-back."
We hear a lot of things about Cuba, but rarely do we have direct connection with someone who has lived there and has an insider’s view of the infamous socialist country. Dr. Melissa Rose was trained in Cuba to be a doctor and participated in the Cuba’s medical relief efforts in the devastated country of Haiti.

This interview, which is broken into parts, was for us to discuss her experience so that we, the people, do not have to rely on the U.S. propaganda spin-doctors euphemistically called the media for information on a country that Amerikkka has been at war with, in one form or another – a country that has protected Assata Shakur and so many other revolutionaries internationally who have had to flee their oppressive governments.

Dr. Rose is a revolutionary Cuban-trained medical professional not just in theory but in action. The time she served in Haiti was a revolutionary act that she said she is willing to repeat. It speaks volumes about her convictions, especially looking at the fact that she had to raise money to pay her rent while she was gone. I was inspired to the point of transcribing this interview because this is truly something beautiful to aspire to …

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell the people how you are a U.S. citizen who came to be trained in Cuba to become a medical doctor?

Dr. Rose: Well, Cuba has been involved in training people from all over the world for a long time now. Just a few years after the revolution and just recently actually in 1999, Fidel (Castro) opened the offer up; he initially made the offer for 500 students [from the U.S.] to study in Cuba, keeping in mind that although this [the U.S.] is one of the richest countries in the world, we do have third world populations.

This photo was taken in downtown Port au Prince about five minutes from the capitol in what used to be one of the most important financial hubs in the city and the country. Many people live in these ruins. – Photo: Minister of Information JR
So the program is designed for us to study in Cuba free of charge and return to our communities able to provide health care and health care services for those that need it.

M.O.I. JR: How long was the program, and how were you chosen for the program?

Dr. Rose: It is a six-year program, so I was actually there for six and a half years. I went a semester early to learn Spanish. The organization that sponsors us or does the applications and the interview process is called IFCO Pastors for Peace. And they are based out of New York.

M.O.I. JR: Why did you pick Cuba to be trained to become a doctor?

Dr. Rose: There’s a lot of reasons but primarily because of the opportunity to study social and community medicine, and the type of medicine that Cuba offers and that Cuba teaches, which is very different than the type of medicine that is practiced here.

M.O.I. JR: What is the difference between the United States health care system and the Cuban healthcare system, for those who may not know?

Dr. Rose: Well, there is a lot of differences, but fundamentally that healthcare is looked at is very different; healthcare in Cuba is considered a human right. It is available to all. They have what you call universal healthcare socialized medicine, which means that every citizen can receive healthcare at any time at any level, be it primary care or specialized surgery, free of charge.

Haitians still have to hustle to feed their families despite their country having been taken back to the Stone Age. Come hear about our experience in Haiti at the Jazz Heritage Club on April 21 in San Francisco. - Photo: Minister of Information JR
So that is one thing. Also, there is no difference between the public healthcare system and doctors. Here in the U.S., you’ve got a division of public health; then you’ve got your private health sector. You’ve got a bit of overlap between the two at times, but in Cuba all doctors are public health specialists. So basically we work for the public health system, meaning, as I mentioned before, as servants of the public health system, we serve the public. Anyone can come to us at any time.

M.O.I. JR: What was your experience like in Cuba for six years? I imagine that you stayed on the island for most of the six years. Can you speak to what was everyday life like? And what was the six year experience as a total like?

Dr. Rose: Well, that is a hugely broad question, but life in Cuba is different in the sense that you have a lot less responsibilities. I went from paying rent and working full time and all of the responsibilities that go along with living in the U.S. to my only responsibility being to get up and go to class every day. That’s a huge difference.

These are the ruins of Port au Prince that the people are forced to live in by the international community that has pocketed a majority of the money that was earmarked for the Haitian people's redevelopment. - Photo: Minister of Information JR
There is no such thing as bills. There’s no credit. There is so much less to deal with in Cuba, so in that sense it’s a breath of fresh air. But obviously you have your difficulties with it being a country that has been under a blockade for more than 50 years. There are a lot of things that we don’t have access to. Communication is a huge issue. There is a lot of things that you have to adapt to. But leaving the U.S. and going to any other developing country, you deal with kind of the same things.

M.O.I. JR: Did the Cubans or did any other international students have questions for you particularly about ghettos in Amerikkka or where Black people live in Amerikkka? Or what is it that they wanted to know about the Black experience in Amerikkka?

Dr. Rose: I think you had two extremes: You had people who were very well versed on the struggles of underserved people, marginalized populations. Then you had people who didn’t believe or care to believe that that type of thing existed. I found usually they were one of the two extremes, either they were very well informed or they didn’t care.

M.O.I. JR: How did they take to you?

Dr. Rose: Well that again is a broad question. I think that I definitely was very well accepted – the U.S. students in general. When we first got there we were such a novelty. It was huge for the country and huge for us to be citizens of the country that is imposing the blockade, to be there studying, living, carrying out our lives with these same people that our government has been punishing.

But after a few years went on, they got used to us. And again, Cuba has such a large population of foreign students, and they have a lot of exchange with other countries and so it wasn’t that big of a deal. Like I said, I think that they got used to us as the days passed on.

Email POCC Minister of Information JR, Bay View associate editor, at and visit

One thought on “Revolutionary medicine: Dr. Rose goes to Haiti

  1. how do I count the crimes

    “people are forced to live in by the international community that has pocketed a majority of the money that was earmarked for the Haitian people’s redevelopment.”
    Indeed I often wonder whether “redevelopment” is another word for government sponsored money laundering. monica davis


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