NBC's Andrea Mitchell Praises 'Highly Regarded' Cuban Health Care System Indoctrinating U.S. Med Students

In a piece of propaganda that would make Cuba's Castro regime proud, on her Tuesday MSNBC program, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell cheered the communist state's "highly regarded" health care system, "and especially one of Fidel Castro's signature projects, which is training doctors, doctors who then provide free medical care throughout Latin America."

Mitchell proclaimed: "As the U.S. debates health care....We went back to the Latin American medical school here to talk to American medical students about what they're learning about medicine, about Cuba, and about themselves." That soon became disturbingly apparent as student Cynthia Aguilera gushed: "...after graduating with no debt, no worries about paying off loans and having to get a high-paying job, we can return to our communities [in the U.S.] and work in them and try to uplift them the same way that Cuba uplifted us."

Fellow medical student Heather Ross declared: "...usually when you enter medical school they tell you, 'Okay, we hope you can hold on to your ideals.' Here they actually teach you ideals from day one, in hopes that you will be a physician who will go into you're community and become a leader as well as change agent for improving your community."

Marissa Robinson enthusiastically announced: "I've always wanted to come to this country because of, you know, being from America, being American, it's somewhat taboo. It's something we're not familiar with. So, I've always wanted to come here and then what really intrigued me was the fact that Cuba produces excellent doctors."

Following the fawning testimonials from the American students, Mitchell happily turned to long-time Cuban-American communist sympathizer and activist Gail Reed, simply introducing her as the international director of the nonprofit group Medical Education Cooperation.

Mitchell lead with this incredibly slanted question on the Cuban health system: "What do you see as the advantages of the Cuban system, the low infant mortality rate, for instance, which is legendary around the world, but also the gaps that you're trying to – trying to fill?"

Reed recited Communist Party talking points perfectly: "...what they've done in health care here wasn't built in a day. It was built over the last 50 years. It was built with a public policy of emphasizing health care for all. So today you really do have universal health care, free."

Reed continued to sing the praises of the socialized medical care: "They still make house calls in Cuba. And so it's something that is built over time and has given them outcomes very comparable to those in the states in Canada. As you mentioned, low infant mortality. Women in Cuba are living to over 80 years old now, a bit more than men, at 76."

Mitchell briefly feigned balance, observing: "It's not without its problems. There are other problems here." However, she then blamed the U.S. trade embargo for those problems: "We shouldn't under-emphasize the infrastructure problems, the impact of the embargo."

She could barely contain how impressed she was with Cuba's medical labs: "Fidel Castro once showed me the laboratories when they were briefly controversial, there was an erroneous claim that they were biomedical weaponry, and he showed, you know, that they were basically making antibiotics under American contracts....It was quite amazing." Reed added that Mitchell "got into the inner-sanctum to see what was going on."

After Mitchell brought up shortages in those medications, Reed acknowledged: "Yes, there are shortages and I would say there's a few different kinds of problems." She added: "And right now, the emphasis is really trying to make this health system more sustainable." Mitchell concluded: "And work the way it has been envisioned."


Here are portions of the March 27 segment:

1:38PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: Cuba is highly regarded for its health care, and especially one of Fidel Castro's signature projects, which is training doctors, doctors who then provide free medical care throughout Latin America. During one of my many past visits to Cuba, Fidel Castro took me on a tour of the medical school to meet the first class of young doctors in training. Now a decade later the school has graduated almost 10,000 doctors. Last year's class included 19 Americans, among students from 22 countries. As the U.S. debates health care, today we thought it would be good to take a look back to the schools. We went back to the Latin American medical school here to talk to American medical students about what they're learning about medicine, about Cuba, and about themselves.

CYNTHIA AGUILERA [LOS ANGELES, CA]: The idea is that we come from under-represented and under-served communities and that after graduating with no debt, no worries about paying off loans and having to get a high-paying job, we can return to our communities and work in them and try to uplift them the same way that Cuba uplifted us.

HEATHER ROSS [BLAKELY, GA]: I wanted to go into a program that would permit me or train me to become the type of doctor that I wanted to be, versus having ideal – usually when you enter medical school they tell you, "Okay, we hope you can hold on to your ideals." Here they actually teach you ideals from day one, in hopes that you will be a physician who will go into you're community and become a leader as well as change agent for improving your community.

(...)

MARISSA ROBINSON [PITTSBURGH, PA]: I've always wanted to come to this country because of, you know, being from America, being American, it's somewhat taboo. It's something we're not familiar with. So, I've always wanted to come here and then what really intrigued me was the fact that Cuba produces excellent doctors. And then also, this curriculum is in Spanish and I've always wanted to learn Spanish, so I'm doing all of that.

(...)

MITCHELL: And joining me now is Gail Reed, the international director of a nonprofit based in Atlanta, the Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba. Working to bridge Cuban and American medical treatments. Thanks so much, Gail. Great to have you here.

GAIL REED: Thank you.

MITCHELL: We're seeing this debate in our country about universal health care, the mandate, the Supreme Court arguments today. We have universal coverage here. Of course it's a very different society and an economic model that would not work in the United States. What do you see as the advantages of the Cuban system, the low infant mortality rate, for instance, which is legendary around the world, but also the gaps that you're trying to – trying to fill?

GAIL REED: I was struck by what one of the medical students said about having so little and building up to more, because obviously what they've done in health care here wasn't built in a day. It was built over the last 50 years. It was built with a public policy of emphasizing health care for all. So today you really do have universal health care, free.

It is also a system that emphasizes very much prevention built on primary care clinics, doctors and nurses, sort of dotting the country, and they have worked very hard in that area, which I think has economic implications when you're trying to health on a shoestring, prevention's very important. You avoid those big-ticket items, at least in the first round. And the other thing is, it's back to basics. It really is. The doctor and nurse are in the community. They make house calls. There's no middle man.

MITCHELL: House calls?

REED: Like I remember in the '50s when I was a kid we used to get house calls from our pediatricians. They still make house calls in Cuba. And so it's something that is built over time and has given them outcomes very comparable to those in the states in Canada. As you mentioned, low infant mortality. Women in Cuba are living to over 80 years old now, a bit more than men, at 76. And prevention is the name of the game in terms of the vaccines, in terms of health education, and of course it's not without its problems.

MITCHELL: It's not without its problems. There are other problems here. We shouldn't under-emphasize the infrastructure problems, the impact of the embargo. What do you try to do in bringing in doctors who train here, do they teach? Do you also deal with vaccines and other supplies, although Cuba has a very – Fidel Castro once showed me the laboratories when they were briefly controversial, there was an erroneous claim that they were biomedical weaponry, and he showed, you know, that they were basically making antibiotics under American contracts...

REED: You got into the inner-sanctum to see what was going on.

MITCHELL: It was quite amazing. But there are shortages, clearly.

REED: Yes, there are shortages and I would say there's a few different kinds of problems. One kind of problem is very similar to what we face in the States, which are chronic diseases the kind of diseases, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, the obesity that causes it. And then there's infrastructure problems that come from years of economic problems in the '90s. Some of the hospitals need repair. The salaries are not what they should be. And of course, you know, I would say you do have to take your own bed sheets in some of the hospitals even though you can get a heart transplant for free. So they weigh these things. And right now, the emphasis is really trying to make this health system more sustainable.

MITCHELL: And work the way it has been envisioned. Gail Reed, thank you so much for joining us today.

REED: You're welcome, I'm – with pleasure.

MITCHELL: Great insight and it's good to see you. And we'll be right back with a special edition of Andrea Mitchell Reports, live from Havana.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC