CONCORD, Calif. (KGO) -- Cuba may be an impoverished nation over seen by a dictator, but it has developed a first rate medical system. The communist island even trains doctors from other nations and one of those Cuban trained doctors is working right here in the Bay Area.
President Obama announcement last week of a change in policy toward Cuba continues to reverberate. Garnering mixed reactions in the Bay Area and around the nation.
Dr. Mena Ramos knows more about Cuba than most Americans. She got her training there, six years free of charge at the island nation's most prestigious medical school.
The Cuban government program enrolls thousands of international students requiring only that when they graduate they work in underserved communities.
Ramos now helps the uninsured and underinsured in Contra Costa County influenced by her experience in Cuba.
"Being able to relate to people on a very human level, not on a doctor/patient hierarchy. No, it's we are partners in this," Ramos said.
The 31-year old doctor has made life-long friends, learned Spanish and how to play the batah, an Afro-Cuban drum. When president Obama made his surprise announcement last week that the U.S. would begin to normalize relations between our two countries.
"I was like finally," Ramos said. "I was just thrilled, just thrilled."
But there are many Americans who are not. Those who oppose Cuba's political system and human rights record under the Castro regime. Ramos welcomes the thaw and the opportunity for more Americans to experience even a fraction of what she has.
"I don't think the purpose is necessarily to get rid of an ideology because that's not something a policy can do. That evolves over time," she said. "But opening up the dialogue and having a free exchange to me is what i like from this major step forward."
As for the critics, Ramos says it's healthy to have that dialogue between opponents and supporters of the historic change.