In the time of COVID-19,  a Palauan woman completed her medical training in Cuba, according to the Permanent Mission of Palau to the United Nations.

Lara Reklai has completed her training as a medical doctor amid the coronavirus pandemic. She also made history as the first Palauan woman to complete medical studies in Cuba. 

In a statement posted on the Facebook page of the Palau UN Mission, Palau’s non-resident Ambassador to Cuba, H.E. Ms. NgedikesOlaiUludong is delighted to announce Reklai’s accomplishment given the challenging times.

“From speaking with Lara and her fellow students regularly, I know that the past few months have been incredibly challenging given the disruptions caused by the lockdown in Cuba that was necessary to fight COVID-19. I am so proud of her dedication to successfully pass her final exams last week. Felicidades, Lara,” Ambassador Uludong said.

In an interview, Dr.  Reklai admits the challenge of studying in Cuba with a language barrier she has to overcome, on top of being far away from home.

Reklai said as a Cuba-trained doctor, she can now practice medicine not only in Cuba but in Latin America, and eventually, she wants to be able to come home to Palau and give back to the community.

She said the period during the coronavirus was tough for her, aside from studying for last exams, they also worked alongside with the doctors in Cuba in containing COVID-19.

Despite the skyrocketing cases of COVID-19 in Latin America, Cuba has been successful in containing coronavirus.

Reklai said Cuba has gotten COVID-19 under control with the early detection and containment strategies the country put in place.

She also said she’s looking forward to coming home after four years of not being able to travel back to Palau 

“I am planning to come home but it depends on the opening of the borders,’ she said.

But she wants to make sure that her homecoming will be safe. 

Ambassador Uludong praised Reklai’s resiliency despite the uncertainties in financial support due to the embargo on Cuba.

“Her resilience in overcoming adversity – learning a new language, long commutes by bicycle, the uncertainty of accessing financial support from overseas due to the embargo on Cuba – are exactly the qualities we want our doctors and health workers to possess.”

 Minister of Health, Dr. Emais Roberts also congratulated Reklai on her accomplishment.

“We are full of pride at the hard work and determination that she has demonstrated in her journey to complete her studies.”

“Palau also wishes to thank the Cuban government, which continues to generously support scholarships for young, talented Palauans to train as doctors. Strengthening our health system and improving the quality of life of Palau’s residents, in the long-term, depends on training indigenous doctors, and reversing the brain drain. I hope that Lara’s example will inspire others, especially women, to follow in her footsteps,” he added. 

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