Terepkul Ngiraingas (left) and Tzun Rafael (Image Source: Facebook profiles)

Two Palauans who are taking medical studies at the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM) or Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba are filled with excitement as their journeys of becoming doctors are almost within their reach.

Palauan medical students Terepkul Ngiraingas and Tzun Rafael, who are among the recipients of the full medical scholarships provided by the Cuban government, had been joined by their families in Cuba to attend their graduation ceremony slated July 23, Cuba time.

Ngiraingas is the son of former Peleliu Governor Jackson Ngiraingas while Rafael is also the son of the late Angaur State Delegate Horace Rafael.

Health Minister Emais Roberts is currently in Cuba along with Palau Ambassador to the United Nations and Cuba Ngedikes Olai Uludong to attend the graduation ceremony.

Roberts described the most anticipated occasion as “historic” and referred to the journeys of the students in Cuba as “amazing” for their tenacity in overcoming the challenges they had faced just to complete their medical studies. Studying in Cuba does not only mean learning medicine for the students as they also needed to adjust to the medium of instruction and learn the Spanish language.

In 2018, medical student Ngiraingas, who represented the Palauan students at ELAM, wrote a letter to the government asking for support to ease their financial challenges with living expenses, educational materials and school activities.

The Palauan government, as a response, passed the Post Graduate Scholarship Act 2018 to extend up to $5,000 annual grant assistance to the medical students.

Ngiraingas and Rafael are not the first Palauans to graduate from ELAM. The Cuban government’s first scholarship graduate was Dr. Jason Arurang, who began his studies at ELAM in 2012.

Cuba is well-known for its advanced health system and primary health care initiatives around the world. It is the only Small Island Developing State (SIDS) to offer free health care and education from the elementary to PhD level. (By Rhealyn C. Pojas)