Cuban doctor in US – ‘I have a really good resume which is of no value here’
Cuban doctor in US: ‘I have a really good resume which is of no value here’
BY ABEL FERNANDEZ
Miami HeraldDecember 1, 2014
MIAMI — Every weekend Duvier Gomez, a Cuban doctor who specialized in
gynecologic oncology, is a server at a Miami restaurant.
Gomez, born in Las Villas province in Cuba, emigrated a year ago with
his wife – also a doctor – and their daughter after the Cuban
government, in 2012, stopped requiring special permits before health
workers could leave the country. Now Gomez, 40, plans to obtain the U.S.
validation of his medical degree to be able to work as a doctor, and so
in his free time he studies and takes English night classes at a public
“I have a really good resume which is of no value here,” Gomez said.
“It’s a different country and different medicine.”
There are hundreds of immigrant doctors in South Florida who, like
Gomez, work odd jobs that have no relation to their profession. Many
seek jobs as medical assistants that pay between $10 and $12 an hour, or
in other technical positions. Some study to be nurses.
Julio Cesar Alfonso, president of Solidarity Without Borders (SSF by its
Spanish-language acronym), a nonprofit organization that helps health
professionals to reinsert themselves in their fields, said that a newly
arrived health professional must focus on other activities to survive.
“The country has welcomed a deluge of underutilized Cuban doctors who
are working in cafeterias, restaurants, driving taxis or whatever they
find,” Alfonso said, referring to the Cuban Medical Professional Parole
Program, a U.S. visa program designed for health professionals that the
Cuban government sends out on missions to other countries.
There are 5,347 health professionals registered with SSF who plan to get
back to their field. Of those, 2,616 are doctors, most of them in South
Florida, where they have relatives. More than 90 percent are Cubans.
About a thousand health professionals attended a job fair last month at
SSF headquarters in Hialeah.
“We’re trying to find jobs for them according to their medical profiles
so that they don’t have to run around the city looking for work at
places where they are seldom listened to,” Alfonso said.
Gomez, who receives financial support from his relatives, feels lucky to
work only on weekends and devotes the rest of his time to study for the
United States Medical License Examination. “If you don’t have at least
four full days a week to study, you won’t make it,” he said.
From Monday to Thursday, Gomez takes English night classes oriented
toward the license exams at South Miami Senior High under a free
Miami-Dade County Adult Education program.
Renan Amador, a Cuban doctor who teaches in the program, said that many
don’t have time to study.
“There are doctors here who are cleaning floors, working at Publix,
Sedano’s, Wal-Mart, when they could be working as doctors in more
decorous conditions given their educational level,” said Amador, who as
a new arrival some time ago worked installing air conditioners and in
“We must help them to get back to what they really are – doctors,”
Amador said. Choices like working as medical assistants or studying to
be nurses divert the doctors from their path.
That is the case of Lisandra Santos, 28, a Cuban doctor who in 2013,
after a mission of three years in Venezuela, applied for professional
parole “to make progress,” she said.
What they paid her in Venezuela, about $159 a month, “was not enough to
buy anything,” she said.
To apply for the program, Santos crossed the Colombian border illegally,
since her passport issued by the Cuban government was valid only in
Venezuela. When she arrived at Miami’s airport, Church World Service, a
humanitarian agency that helps refugees, welcomed her.
“If you have where to stay, you stay in Florida. If not, you go to
another state,” said Santos, who does not have relatives in the United
States and lives in Cutler Bay at the home of a friend of her mother’s.
Monday through Friday, Santos works until 6 p.m. as a medical assistant
at a North Miami clinic. Some nights, exhausted after an hour drive back
to Cutler Bay, she meets for more than an hour to study with a group of
friends, all of them doctors who have a day job and try to prepare for
the license exams.
To be able to take the license exam, doctors who apply for professional
parole must ask the Cuban government for their degrees and transcripts.
To obtain the documents, a doctor must fill out an application known as
“To get that information from Cuba you have to pay, and Cuba is now also
limiting it because they don’t want more doctors to leave,” Santos said.
To obtain the documents, translate and certify them, and apply for the
first of four tests, Santos said she has spent more than $2,000.
Yet even work as a medical assistant is difficult to get for many
doctors, said Gianella Asalde, 28, a Peruvian doctor who works at a
“In an interview for medical assistant I told them what I do for a
living and I think they didn’t like the fact that I work part time at a
fast-food restaurant,” Asalde said. “I wish I had more time to study,
but I have to pay my bills. I cannot just do it full time,” she said.
In the three years she has been in the country, Asalde has known
neurosurgeons or cardiovascular surgeons seeking work as medical assistants.
“It’s their only aspiration,” Asalde said. Someone recommended that she
study to be a nurse.
That’s what Elena Romero, a Cuban doctor who arrived in Miami 15 years
ago, did. In an effort to find a way to make a living, she studied
nursing at Florida International University, where she met many doctors
from Cuba and elsewhere in similar situations.
The nursing career, said Romero, turns out to be relatively easy for
immigrant doctors, since they already have a broad experience in
medicine, and also because the university accepts a number of credits.
But Romero doesn’t believe she made the right decision.
“I recommend to all doctors I have met to avoid taking a detour to do
other things,” said the 46-year-old doctor, who is now preparing for the
license exams. “Look at all the time I have lost.”
Source: MIAMI: Cuban doctor in US: ‘I have a really good resume which is
of no value here’ | MCT National News | McClatchy DC –