When Sarpoma Sefa-Boakye, who grew up in southern California and went to UCLA, heard she could go to medical school in Cuba, she thought it must be a joke. Not that it existed—she met Cuban doctors while studying abroad in Ghana, so she knew about the country’s robust healthcare system. What was unbelievable was the cost.
“I called the office asking how much the program cost, how much the application fee was. They were just like ‘Free, free,’” says Sefa-Boakye. “How can it be free?” But indeed, the Latin American Medical School—ELAM, in Spanish—is free, charging no tuition, room, or board. In 2002, she packed her bags for Havana.