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Sick of Sicko?

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Katherine Hirschfeld was enjoying Sicko, the documentary about the trials of uninsured Americans, until Michael Moore headed to Cuba.

“I thought, ‘Oh no.’ It’s such a romanticized view,” says Hirschfeld, an Oklahoma professor who recently published a comprehensive book on Cuban health care. “It’s just repeating Cuban government propaganda…That, in Cuba, everybody’s happy. He literally has music to that effect and the health system is portrayed as having caring, compassionate doctors who are also handsome and photogenic.”

Her experience with Cuban health care was not so rosy. While doing research on the island, Hirschfeld, then a 29 year-old doctoral student, was hospitalized in May 1997 with dengue fever in Santiago. Doctors were expected to keep the outbreak quiet, she says. And she was sent to a secret ward where an armed guard stood before her door.

Her ten months of research showed that family doctors in Cuba often have to choose between being a good doctor or a good revolutionary and are even asked to watch for government dissidents. “Some put the patients first and some put the revolution first,” she says.

Hirschfeld will talk about how reputed American academics have adopted Moore’s similarly glowing view in “Michael Moore and the Mythology of Cuban Health Care: A View from Academia,” at a free 7 P.M. talk at University of Miami’s Casa Bacardi at 1531 Brescia Avenue in Coral Gables (305-284-2822). A wine and cheese reception starts an hour before. -- Janine Zeitlin

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