Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba

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Template:TOCnestleft Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba is a non-profit organization working to enhance cooperation among the US, Cuban and global health communities.

Congressmen to Cuba

Dec. 12-Dec. 16, 2014 Reps Michael Burgess (R-TX), Karen Bass, Danny Davis, Diana DeGette, Robin Kelly, Barbara Lee, and Charles Rangel, were part of a group trip to Havana, Cuba sponsored by Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba . "Attended meetings with government officials, health care workers and providers and members of civil society".[1]

"Cuba-U.S.: A healthy relationship"

Cooperation in matters of health and medical research can be one of the most solid roads to rapprochement between two countries that are still very distant. For more than 20 years, a U.S. organization seeks to generate synergies in a sphere where both nations show remarkable results.

It is called Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba (MEDICC). Located in Oakland, Calif., it brings together dozens of health professionals from all over the country.

Gail Reed

“We can’t close our eyes to the differences that exist, but our organization has the privilege of being in one of the fields where the benefits of cooperation exceed the hostility,” says Gail Reed, a Chicago journalist who, from her office in the Havana neighborhood of Santos Suárez, writes for MEDICC Review, a quarterly that translates into English the articles and research papers by doctors from Cuba and other countries.

“The association used to help us organize the trips to Cuba of students of medicine. I accompanied them from time to time,” recalls Javier Nieto, a professor at the University of Wisconsin/Madison and a member of MEDICC.

“This exchange was interrupted in 2003 or 2004 by the restrictions imposed by the Bush administration.” Until then, some 1,500 Americans were able to know first-hand the system of medical care on the island.

“The possibilities for collaboration are unlimited, beginning with academic exchanges. Cuba can contribute much to the public health organizations in the U.S. about preventive medicine, especially in disadvantaged populations,” says Nieto, adding that he’d like to visit Cuba again.

“I still have friends and colleagues there,” he explains.

One man who has been able to return to Cuba is the association’s president, Dr. William Keck, professor emeritus at Northeast Ohio Medical University.

“I’ve traveled there almost 30 times in the past 23 years. I was impressed by the efficiency and efficacy of the model of universal access to health care that they have developed. Surely we can learn from a country with scant resources that nevertheless achieves a level of health care that is equal to — or better than — ours, spending a lot less per person,” Keck argues.

“Collaboration between the two countries is not just a good idea, it’s indispensable!” emphasizes Gail Reed, who gives an example of what, in her opinion, has been the most substantial benefit for the U.S. of the exchanges promoted by MEDICC.

“Under our Community Alliance for Equity in Health, local leaders from Los Angeles, Oakland, Albuquerque and the Bronx determined their health problems and traveled to Cuba to exchange ideas with colleagues who were treating the same disorders, such as obesity, diabetes and teen pregnancy.

“Those exchanges brought forth ideas. For example, representatives from Oakland saw a family doctor in every neighborhood and wondered, ‘Why can’t we have doctors at our Fire Departments or in churches? We don’t have to build anything, just revise the local budget and bring the services closer to the people.’ And that’s what has been done,” Reed says.

Ever since the creation in Havana of the Latin-American School of Medicine, MEDICC has provided support for the training of the students. It does so because it is interested in accompanying the young Americans who receive scholarships to study there.

As of 2015, some 250 young Americans with limited resources have matriculated for free in that institution, making a commitment to care for the disadvantaged communities in their homeland. The number of graduates is on the rise.

“Our help consists of finding them mentors who will keep them ‘connected’ with the U.S. health-care system during their studies,” Reed explains. “We also finance, partially or totally, the boards [exams] that determine access to medical residency in the United States. Those tests cost about $2,000 and more than 90 percent of the students come from low-income families and racial and ethnic minorities that can’t afford that much,” Reed says.

The good will demonstrated by the NGO has earned it much prestige among Cuban professionals. Pedro Urra, the founder and longtime director of INFOMED, the Health Ministry’s computer network, defines it as “a serious and responsible channel […] because it has visualized the reality of Cuban public health and has brought experts from both countries together in a climate of respect and dialogue.”

That value is what the organization wants to use to promote binational agreements.

“We’re expecting the visit to Havana in April of two groups of members of the American Association of Public Health, whom we helped to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Cuban Public Health Society,” Reed says.

The experience gained from dealing with the regulations and political stances of both countries is another tool in the hands of MEDICC, useful to advise potential U.S. investors in the pharmaceutical industry or medical research.

“Total cooperation will not be possible until the embargo is revoked,” argues president Keck.

“The reduction in restrictions can facilitate initial efforts of joint research, but it’s not clear what will happen when dollars from the U.S. are involved. Besides, past experience will make Cubans very cautious when dealing with Americans. Add to this the fact that the health sector in Cuba has been directed by the State for a long time and the profits remain under central control to provide services, supplies, medications and equipment.

“The marked differences with the U.S. perspective of managing can stress the partners,” he says.

“Advances in Cuban biotechnology should be subjected to the same tests of the Federal Drug Administration as the rest of the world’s products,” the journalist insists. “American patients and doctors have the right, for example, to use Heberprot-P, a product that could prevent many of the 70,000 or 80,000 amputations for diabetic foot that are reported every year in the U.S.”

“It is important that Americans get to know the culture, history and advances that have been made in Cuba as a result of a major investment in human resources. I would like Americans to be sensitive to the problems of a poor country like Cuba, and I hope that the U.S. won’t continue to contribute to those problems.”[2]


Founded in 1997, Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba (MEDICC) is a non-profit organization working to enhance cooperation among the US, Cuban and global health communities aimed at better health outcomes and equity. We see that health care especially for underserved populations – can be informed by Cuba's singular universal health system and its evolving health policies, practice, research and education.

We also see that the US and other nations' experience in medicine and medical research can inform practice in Cuba and the developing world. Above all, we believe that such cooperation is urgently needed to radically improve global health and achieve the birthright of health for all worldwide.[3]

Main activities

MEDICC produced the feature film ¡Salud! and publishes the MEDLINE-indexed journal MEDICC Review.

MEDICC supports research in Cuba by US health professionals, assists US students and graduates of Havana’s Latin American Medical School to return to US underserved communities, and organizes Community Partnerships for Health Equity to improve health care and access in communities such as South Los Angeles and Oakland, California; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and the Bronx, New York.[4]

Links to the health workforce crisis

Cuba's Latin American Medical School (ELAM) provides scholarships to over 10,000 low-income students from Africa, Asia and the Americas (including the USA) who make a commitment to work in underserved communities at home.

MEDICC supports ELAM with thousands of textbooks, access to online journals, and initiatives for students from Haiti, the indigenous Garifuna regions of Honduras, and South Africa. In Haiti, MEDICC works with Global Links and the Pan American Health Organization to provide vital materials for Haitian and other ELAM graduates who are working to build a sustainable public health system.

In the US, MEDICC supports US students and graduates of ELAM through mentors, scholarships to help with US medical licensing test preparations, US clinical observership placements, and residency application support.[5]

Board members

As of July 2015;[6]

Board of Directors

  • Peter G. Bourne MD MA Chair, Board of Directors, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, UK
  • Alfred W. Brann, Jr., MD Professor of Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine Director, WHO Collaborating Center in Reproductive Health
  • Dabney Evans PhD MPH Founder & Director, Institute of Human Rights, Emory University, Assistant Professor, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University
  • C. William Keck MD MPH FACPM Professor Emeritus, Department of Family and Community Medicine Northeast Ohio Medical University Chair, Council on Linkages Editor-in-Chief, MEDICC Review
  • Sharon K. Hull MD MPH Division Chief of Family Medicine, Department of Community and Family Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine
  • Tomas A. Magana MD MA FAAP Assistant Professor/Medical Director, Samuel Merritt University Assistant Clinical Professor, Dept. of Pediatrics, University of California San Francisco Medical Center Founding Director, FACES for the Future Coalition, Public Health Institute
  • Arnold Perkins BA Trustee, Alta Bates-Summit Medical Center Senior Health Policy & Public Safety Advisor to the Mayor of Oakland, CA Former Alameda County Director of Public Health
  • Ronald St. John MD MPH President, St. John Public Health Consulting International Canada

Ex-Officio Board Members

Founding Board Members, Emerita

  • Albert S. Kuperman PhD Associate Dean Emeritus for Medical Education, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University
  • Patricia Rodney PhD RN MPH Director Emeritus, MPH Program & Professor Dept. of Community Health & Preventative Medicine Morehouse School of Medicine

Advisory Council

  • Felix Aguilar, MD, MPH, FAAFP, FACPM Director, South Central Family Health Center
  • Mohammad Akhter MD MPH Executive Director National Medical Association
  • Patricia Bath MD President, American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness Professor Emeritus St. George’s University and UCLA
  • Gayle Dine’Chacon MD Professor, Family and Community Medicine University of New Mexico
  • Anna Dorman MPH Clinical Health Education Manager La Clínica de La Raza
  • Jerome Engel, Jr. MD PhD Director, UCLA Seizure Disorder Center Professor, Neurology and Neurobiology UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine
  • Elizabeth Halprin MD Endocrinologist, Joslin Diabetes Center
  • Jean Handy PhD Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology University of North Carolina School of Medicine
  • Kathleen Hower Executive Director and Co-Founder, Global Links
  • Jennifer Kasper MD MPH Former President, Doctors for Global Health
  • Arthur Kaufman MD Professor, Vice President for Community Health, Chair Department of Family and Community Medicine University of New Mexico
  • Philip Lee MD Senior Advisor to the School of Medicine Institute of Health Policy Studies University of California, San Francisco
  • Barbara Morita PA Medical Assistance Team CA-6 Disaster Team
  • David Pruitt MD Division Director, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry University of Maryland
  • Richard Quint MD MPH Health Sciences Clinical Professor Emeritus Department of Pediatrics University of California, San Francisco
  • Teresa Ramos MD Director, Residency Program Section Co-chief, General Internal Medicine Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center
  • Ralph Rivera Gutiérrez PhD MSW Department of Health Services Administration Graduate School of Public Health, Puerto Rico
  • Judith Rooks CNM MPH MS Assistant Professor, College of Public Health University of South Florida
  • Marla Salmon ScD RN FAAN Dean, School of Nursing Professor, Psychosocial and Community Health; and Professor, Global Health University of Washington
  • Susan Scrimshaw PhD MA President, The Sage Colleges
  • Augusto Sola MD Neonatologist, St Jude's Hospital and Children's Hospital, Orange County, California
  • Jerry Spiegel MA MSc PhD Director, Liu Institute for Global Issues, UBC
  • Judy Wofsy MD Chief Primary Care Medical Division Alameda County Medical Center[7]


MEDICC Review Staff