Exclusive tour of Cuban medicine

Study abroad students catch a rare glimpse inside Cuba’s socialized medicine

In Cuba, access to health care services is a social right. Taking advantage of a rare opportunity in the study abroad sector, five University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) students got an up-close look inside the Cuban Public Health System. They visited a diverse range of medical facilities, including a maternity home, nursing home, polyclinic, and hospital facility as part of the curriculum.

The USAC La Habana program’s January session course offers community health services and sociology students an in-depth examination of the Ministry of Public Health’s three-tiered system. Anesthetist Dr. Armando Bedoya and neurosurgery professional Dr. Abel Collazo guided the student cohort through the wide range of health services available to the public.

Mallika R, a Rutgers University student, loved visiting the facilities with on-site staff. “Our professors were both doctors, so hearing their perspectives and experiences was invaluable,” she said. “These trips gave us a better understanding of how organized the healthcare system is and how different Cuban society is from American society.”

The majority of the Cuban population uses polyclinics, doctor’s offices, and family nurses to address their health concerns. Pre-existing conditions are managed by a second tier, with the third and smallest level reserved for specialized hospital treatments for unique medical situations.

“It is not easy to get into public institutions abroad,” USAC Resident Director Sebastian Bombi added. “Students get a first-hand experience from two great doctors in charge of our course.”