CUBA 2015: ELAM Curative vs. Preventative Medicine



HAVANA, CUBA — Cuban doctors are sent all around the world to provide medical assistance to countries lacking health care systems. U.S. students are given the opportunity to study and learn at the International School of Medicine in Cuba without cost.

The U.S. focuses on curative methods of medicine; whereas Cuba focuses on a preventative approach. The goal of preventative medicine is to protect, promote, and maintain health and well-being and to prevent disease, disability, and premature death.

The Cuban approach believes it is better for the country to have healthy persons than sick persons. Nikolai Casanova, a first year medical student, explains the learning differences between the U.S. and Cuba,

Like here, if we are in a group and I know the answer and you don’t, and we go up to go present that case on how to solve it or resolve it —I will fail because you don’t know it. My job, once I understand the situation is to teach fellow students how to solve the problem. If I can’t do that, then I won’t be able to treat the patient. So here it is all about teamwork; and that’s something different than back home (in the U.S.) where we are a little bit more competitive. Here, everybody is trying to help everyone.

—Nikolai Casanova

Cassanova further describes the practice of preventative methods and the benefits it provides to Cuba.

So here we are taught a lot of educational techniques to teach your population of how to prevent diseases from happening. For example, if you see that your community has a lot of obesity, then you would go into the community and have a demonstration and have talks on how to decrease the obesity by working out, by eating certain things and not eating others.

—Nikolai Casanova

The program includes communication courses that encourage doctor to patient relationships within communities.

Seeing a patient is not just to treat them as if they are just some disease and figuring out how to stop the diseases —it is to treat them as a patient, as a human being. So one of the greatest forms of communication that we have learned is just to touch.

—Nikolai Casanova

Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Dr. Jose Ramon Machado Ventura is a strong believer in community involvement.

Students in the first year of their career are in close contact with the community.

—Dr. Jose Ramon Machado

As a result, the life expectancy of women in Cuba is 80 and the life expectancy of men is 77. Although life expectancy in the U.S. is comparable at 81.2 for women and 76.4 for men, according to the 2014 CDC report.

However, Cuba has a higher infant survival rate. Infant mortality dropped from 60 per 1000 births to 4.2 per 1000 births, making Cuba the best country in Latin America for infant survival. While in the U.S. infant mortality is 6.17 per 1000 births according to the 2014 CIA World Factbook report.

Cassanova and fellow classmates are anxious to begin practicing medicine in the U.S. and in other countries.

This program is giving me that chance to live my dream, and is giving me that chance to go back home and take what I have learned here to work in my community.

—Nikolai Casanova

Project Details

Client : Synclaire Cruel
Date : 06/09/2015
Skills : Stories

© 2015 Morgan State University School of Global Journalism & Communication. All rights reserved.