The School of Global Journalism & Communication’s, as part of their “Global Village” initiative, hosted a forum with a doctor who survived a rape and overcame the murders of her son and sister to earn her medical license.
Growing up in the South Bronx was tough for Dr. Arabia Mollette. At age 15 she was sent to live with her father, who’d spent time in rehab for drug use, because her mother was deemed mentally unstable after trying to kill herself. Mollette’s tense relationship with her father led to him kicking her out, so she turned to drug-dealing for money.
She became intimate with an older man, who abused and raped her, leading to pregnancy. During her senior year of high school her son’s father murdered him out of anger at her for wanting to leave him to go to college. She lost her 19-year-old sister to gun violence a few years after that in 2003.
“I didn’t think I was going to live that long because of all the pain and suffering I’d gone through since I was five years old,” Mollete said.
However, Mollette used these tragedies, coupled with her education, to motivate herself to get her life together. She was an honors student throughout K-12 and graduated high school with $100,000 in scholarship money. “My mom said to me that education was the only thing that was going to get me out of these situations,” she said.
Mollette received the opportunity to go to Cuba through a phone call and meeting with her cousin’s friend. She received a full ride to study medicine in Havana in 2006.
“I was screaming in the house; I called my family and let them know and my father was so happy for me,” she said.
The Cuba experience wasn’t always easy. Just getting there was a chore because then-president George Bush threatened Mollette and her colleagues with jail time.
“He said we were traitors and what we did was wrong since we were [violating the embargo agreement],” Mollette said. “There were times our paperwork wouldn’t get done, and we would even get blocked in parts of the U.S. from leaving the airport.”
Once they arrived, they quickly had to learn a new language because everything was taught in Spanish, but Mollette said that while they were against them at first, the Cuban people really made them feel at home.
“Solidarity’s very strong in Cuba,” Mollette explained. “You’re broken up into groups in classes. If someone in your group failed the exam, everyone failed. The professors would rip us apart saying ‘Why did you let your colleague fail? Don’t you know in Cuba we stand together, we eat together and we study together?’”
Today, Mollette has a medical license and practices in Brooklyn and Florida, as well as in Kenya and Puerto Rico. She has launched a podcast called “The Visit with Dr. Mollette,” and aspires to turn it into a television show.