African-American Enrollments in U.S. Medical Schools Are Down But Cuban Medical Schools Are Taking Up Some of the Slack

In 1994 there were 1,519 first-year black students at U.S. medical schools. By 2006 the number of first-year black students dropped to 1,176. This is a decline of nearly 23 percent. Furthermore, there is evidence that a large number of black medical school students are foreign-born Africans. As many as one half of all black students at some U.S. medical schools are foreign born or are the children of parents who were born abroad.

While African-American enrollments in U.S. medical schools have declined over the past decade, there are about 50 African-American students currently studying medicine in Cuba. Low-income students receive free medical education in return for a promise to go back to their medically underserved neighborhoods in the United States to practice medicine.

In 2004 the Bush administration toughened regulations on travel to Cuba which would have restricted visas for U.S. students participating in the program. But the Congressional Black Caucus sought and won an exemption from the new rules for the African-American medical students.

The first students who participated in the Cuban program are graduating this summer. They must pass U.S. licensing examinations and be accepted into U.S. residency programs.