In November the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and Escuela National Salud Publica (ENSAP, National School of Public Health) of Cuba entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will enable the two institutions to explore possible collaborations in the areas of curriculum development, teaching, research, and exchanges of information and experiences in several areas of public health.
The MOU was signed by Dean Pierre Buekens for Tulane and by Dr. Pastor Castell-Florit, director of ENSAP.
Researchers in Cuba and the U.S. have been largely kept apart for half a century due to the severing of diplomatic relations between the two countries. President Barack Obama’s intention to work toward normalizing relations could provide significant opportunities for collaboration in public health.
Dr. Arachu Castro, Samuel Z. Stone Chair of Public Health in Latin America, is excited about the prospect of such collaborations and had been working to bring about the MOU for some time.
For the past three years, Dr. Castro has coordinated a summer travel course in Cuba, during which students learn about the Cuban health system and its approach to universal health coverage.
Dr. Castro also hopes the MOU, together with relaxed travel restrictions, might allow some students to stay on in Cuba after the travel course to work on practica. Up until now the travel regulations and Cuban visa restrictions made such opportunities complicated.
[Photo: Members of the Cuban and American delegation pose with the bust of Dr. Carlos Finlay at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, considered to be the father of Cuban medicine and the first to identify the Aedes aegypti mosquito as a carrier of yellow fever.]
In addition to Dean Buekens, Dr. Castro, and Dr. Castell-Florit, the signing was attended by Dr. Richard Oberhelman, chair of the department of global community health and behavioral sciences; Dr. Tania Aguilar, deputy director of ENSAP and director of international relations for the school; and Dr. Pedro Mas, professor at the Institute for Tropical Medicine Pedro Kouri and a faculty member at ENSAP. Dr. Mas is also the former director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.
In early December, Dr. Castro and Dr. Oberhelman are traveling to Cuba with a group of American health professionals organized by the group Medical Education in Cooperation with Cuba (MEDICC) to discuss opportunities for collaboration.