In Their Own Words :: Narciso Ortiz

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U.S. medical student,
Salvador Allende Hospital, Havana

When I first came here to Cuba, I was in a hurry to finish up and go back to the U.S. I had the idea that when I returned I would have a big house, and cars. ... At first it was a challenge to be here. I shared a room with seven other people. I ate mostly rice, beans, and salads. But now, I find it a more satisfying way of living. It is not paradise, but it's different when you have the basic necessities met. The human interactions are better; it's more of a community.

I was born in the Dominican Republic; my family immigrated to Newark in 1981. My father works at the Board of Education cleaning offices. My mother works at the airport; she cleans airplanes.

I would like to offer free health care when I get back. I met a doctor here who spent two years in Africa and did 800 operations on little kids without getting a dime. I would like to have that opportunity.

One thing that perplexes me is how much the Cubans have done with so little. When I go home, it's backwards. We have money, resources, technology, and yet we don't have universal health care. I believe that we can make it happen. We have to fight off the pharmaceutical and insurance companies, but I think we can do it.

One of the things I see here in Cuba is they are always optimistic. Sometimes when I go back home that's missing. Here, they have the attitude that yes, you can! A better world is possible!

Read Cuba's Cure, our article on the Cuban health care system.
And see ¡Salud!, a film on Cuba's global health mission.


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