A Cuban American Hero©

Averyell A. Kessler

Doctor B was old when I met him, a thin, grey haired man with slight shoulders and an aristocratic face. His eyes sparkled with intelligence and he spoke with the polite voice of a gentleman. Many years ago, I was seated next to him at his grandson’s elegant rehearsal supper at the City Club in Baton Rouge.  I knew his history and was delighted for a chance to speak with him. Some people in the room knew exactly what happened to him, others, like me, only heard his story second hand.

When Fidel Castro took control in Cuba in 1959, Dr. B was forced to flee. As one of the island’s premier physicians, he had a well-known patient, Fulgencio Batista. Whether or not he favored Batista’s policies, I don’t know. But his arrest was certain, as well as his imprisonment.  He arrived in the United State with the first wave of Cubans seeking asylum. His Cuban medical credentials were not accepted by the Florida Board of Medicine. His only option was to enter medical school again as a first-year student and retrain. He did this and graduated as a star student. Dr. B had a stellar career in the USA, raising a son who also became a well-respected physician. Now, he was celebrating the approaching marriage of his grandson, a newly minted physician. Had Dr. B remained in Cuba, who knows what would have happened. Nothing good, I’m sure, but this country would have lacked three fine physicians.

As the evening progressed, Dr. B never talked about himself. Instead, he rose to toast and thank his son and grandson for their service in the medical profession. He gave special thanks to his daughter-in law for her care and devotion to his family. There was no mention of his ordeal or his struggles. At the end, everyone was teary eyed. Thankfully, history cannot be re-written and his contributions to this county will not be erased. History produces a variety of heroes; some receive applause, medals, and blazing trumpets. Others may never be known or receive adulation, but they labor on with fortitude and quiet determination[ak1] . I count Dr. B among them.


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