Newly graduated South African medical doctors, who were trained in Cuba, have been encouraged to drive change in their communities.
The eighty-seven South African medical doctors graduated at the Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, on Friday.
This is the largest group to graduate under the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration (NMFCMC) Programme since its inception in 1996. Health Deputy Minister Joe Phaahla and Eastern Cape Premier Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane presided over the 16th graduation ceremony.
The Rector of the University of Medical Sciences of Havana, Luis Alberto Pisch Garcia, conferred the degrees. The event was also attended by the deans of local medical schools, MECs and HODs of health, hospital CEOs and families of the graduates.
"Many doctors who have qualified through this programme have progressed to become specialists in various medical fields.
"One notable achievement is that of a doctor from the Eastern Cape, who made history when she became the first African female cardiothoracic surgeon in the country," said the Deputy Minister in his keynote address.
This brings to 731 the number of medical doctors who have graduated from the programme and currently employed in various public hospitals around the country.
The Health Department said this is a major boost not only for increasing the output of medical employees and strengthening primary healthcare, but also for the success of the National Health Insurance (NHI).
The medical training programme was founded in an attempt to complement and increase the production of medical doctors in South Africa.
The rural under-served communities, where the Department of Health has always struggled to attract medical practitioners, stand to benefit from this initiative, as the doctors are expected to serve the communities they come from.
The new doctors completed five years of medical studies in Cuba and one year of clinical training in the country's universities as part of their integration into the South African health system.
The Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Walter Sisulu University, Prof. Rob Midgley, congratulated the graduates for successfully completing their academic programme.
"You have now become a member of an elite group of graduates who join the ranks of medical professionals that will serve the world.
"Your success has furthered our commitment to equipping the future generation of South Africans with the skills and determination that they will need to find innovative and sustainable solutions to the national and global challenges of today. We know that you will enter the next stage of your journey with a passion to bring positive changes to tomorrow," said Midgley.