• US–Cuba Health and Science Cooperation: They Persisted Editorial

  • About the Contributors About the Contributors

  • Weathering US–Cuba Political Storms: José Rubiera PhD Interview

    Reed, Gail

    Abstract in English:

    Full disclosure: chief weather forecaster is not his official title, but rather one affectionally conferred on Dr Rubiera by the Cuban people, who look to him not only in times of peril, but also to learn about the science of meteorology. Anyone who has taken a taxi in Cuba during hurricane season (June 1 to November 30), and bothered to ask the driver, will receive a clear explanation about how hurricanes are formed, what the Saffir-Simpson scale is all about, and how the season is shaping up—all courtesy of Dr Rubiera’s talent for communication during nightly weather forecasts and special broadcasts. It’s no exaggeration to say that he is something of an icon in Cuba, a man people trust. Now, he is retired as chief of forecasting at Cuba’s Meteorology Institute, but he stays on as an advisor, and since 1989 represents Cuba’s Meteorological Service as the Vice Chairperson of the World Meteorological Organization’s Hurricane Committee for Region IV (North America, Central America and the Caribbean). He also keeps a spot on nightly news and hosts two TV shows of his own: Global Weather and Weather in the Caribbean. And his PhD in meteorology serves him well as full professor at the University of Havana in—what else?— meteorology communications. Finally, he has been a driving force in Cuba for collaboration with Miami’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) and other US meteorologists (in fact, the Chairperson of the Region IV Committee is the head of the NHC). But, as he says over a cup of rich Cuban coffee, it all started with a two-year-old in a yellow sweater.
  • Your Primary Care Doctor May Have an MD from Cuba: Experiences from the Latin American Medical School Roundtable

    Gorry, Conner
  • Bridging the Divide: US and Cuban Scientists Speak Up Roundtable

    Reed, Gail
  • Promoting Scientific Cooperation in Times of Diplomatic Challenges: Sustained Partnership between the Cuban Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Lessons in International Cooperation

    Jorge-Pastrana, Sergio; Gual-Soler, Marga; Wang, Tom C.

    Abstract in English:

    ABSTRACT Scientific research cooperation between Cuba and the USA has a long history that dates back to the 19th century. For the past 200 years, the two countries’ relationship has been subject to complex economic, political and social forces. In the second half of the 20th century, the Cuban revolution and the subsequent escalation of the US government embargo impacted every aspect of Cuban life. While science was no exception, scientific interactions never ceased. Over the past decade, scientific cooperation—led and facilitated by scientific organizations such as the Cuban Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and others—has steadily increased to address ever more critical issues facing both countries. Science and global health diplomacy were key to reestablishing a trusting and productive relationship of mutual and global benefit after the USA and Cuba restored diplomatic relations in 2015. However, recent changes in Cuba policy by the new US administration are jeopardizing these opportunities for increased scientific cooperation, which are in the best interests of people in both countries.
  • Cuban Epidemic Neuropathy: Insights into the Toxic–Nutritional Hypothesis through International Collaboration Lessons in International Cooperation

    González-Quevedo, Alina; Santiesteban-Freixas, Rosaralis; Eells, Janis T.; Lima, Lucimey; Sadun, Alfredo A.

    Abstract in English:

    ABSTRACT From 1991 to 1993, an epidemic of optic and peripheral neuropathy— the largest of the century—broke out in Cuba, affecting more than 50,000 people. Initially the main clinical features were decreased visual acuity, central and cecocentral scotomas, impaired color vision and absence of the papillomacular bundle. Later, peripheral and mixed optic–peripheral forms began to appear. Due to the magnitude of the epidemic, the Cuban government requested help from the international community at the 46th World Health Assembly in 1993. PAHO and WHO immediately responded by sending a mission of international experts. Several hypotheses regarding the pathogenesis of Cuban epidemic neuropathy were put forward including: toxic, nutritional, genetic and infectious. The authors refer to extensive studies by researchers sponsored by the Cuban government and PAHO/WHO, joined by scientists from several other countries, including the USA. This paper describes their multidisciplinary work, particularly devoted to investigating the hypothesis of a primary toxic–nutritional cause of the epidemic. Clinical aspects, such as case definition and clinical description, were vital issues from the start. Cuban physicians who first examined patients received a clear impression of its toxic–nutritional origin, later confirmed by international experts. Research then focused on the mechanisms contributing to damage under the toxic–nutritional hypothesis. These included injuries to the mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation pathway, nutritional deficiencies, excitotoxicity, formate toxicity and dysfunction of the blood–brain barrier. It was expected that the results of such international collaboration into this major health problem would also shed more light on mechanisms underlying other nutritional or tropical myeloneuropathies.
  • US and Cuban Scientists Forge Collaboration on Arbovirus Research Lessons in International Cooperation

    Pérez-Ávila, Jorge; Guzmán-Tirado, Maria G.; Fraga-Nodarse, Jorge; Handley, F. Gray; Meegan, James; Pelegrino-Martínez de la Cotera, Jose L.; Fauci, Anthony S.

    Abstract in English:

    ABSTRACT After December 17, 2014, when the US and Cuban governments announced their intent to restore relations, the two countries participated in various exchange activities in an effort to encourage cooperation in public health, health research and biomedical sciences. The conference entitled Exploring Opportunities for Arbovirus Research Collaboration, hosted at Havana’s Hotel Nacional, was part of these efforts and was the first major US–Cuban scientific conference in over 50 years. Its purpose was to share information about current arbovirus research and recent findings, and to explore opportunities for future joint research. The nearly 100 participants included leading arbovirus and vector transmission experts from ten US academic institutions, NIH, CDC, FDA and the US Department of Defense. Cuban participants included researchers, clinicians and students from Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health, Pedro Kourí Tropical Medicine Institute, Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Center for State Control of Medicines and Medical Devices and other health research and regulatory organizations. Topics highlighted at the three-day meeting included surveillance, research and epidemiology; pathogenesis, immunology and virology; treatment and diagnosis; vector biology and control; vaccine development and clinical trials; and regulatory matters. Concurrent breakout discussions focused on novel vector control, nonvector transmission, community engagement, Zika in pregnancy, and workforce development. Following the conference, the Pedro Kourí Tropical Medicine Institute and the US National Institute of Allergic and Infectious Diseases have continued to explore ways to encourage and support scientists in Cuba and the USA who wish to pursue arbovirus research cooperation to advance scientific discovery to improve disease prevention and control.
  • Case Study in International Cooperation: Cuba’s Molecular Immunology Center and Roswell Park Cancer Institute Lessons in International Cooperation

    Evans, Rachel; Reid, Mary; Segal, Brahm; Abrams, Scott I.; Lee, Kelvin

    Abstract in English:

    ABSTRACT In 1961, the USA severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, and in 1962 an embargo was imposed on trade and financial relations with that country. It was not until five decades later that the USA and Cuba would reestablish relations. This opened the way for the New York State Trade Mission to Cuba in April 2015, during which Cuba’s Molecular Immunology Center and Buffalo, New York’s Roswell Park Cancer Institute signed a formal agreement that would set in motion biotechnology research collaboration to address one of the most important causes of death in both countries. Significant research from Cuba led to this groundbreaking collaboration. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the development of this cooperation, from the Molecular Immunology Center’s initial investigations, through the opening of a phase I clinical trial at Roswell Park Cancer Institute with therapies developed at the Center. This cooperation was responsible for the first clinical trial for CIMAvax-EGF involving advanced-stage non-small cell lung cancer patients in the USA. A license was also approved by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control authorizing a commercial partnership for development of biotechnology products, combining the cancer research efforts of both institutions. This unusual collaboration between Cuba and the USA—the US economic embargo and travel restrictions not withstanding—opens good prospects for expanded medical research between the two countries. While political and logistical challenges remain, the shared mission and dedication of these Cuban and US scientists points the way towards relationships that can lead to development, testing, approval and use of promising new therapies for cancer patients.
  • Cuba’s Scientific Contributions to Global Polio Eradication Lessons in International Cooperation

    Resik, Sonia; Mach, Ondrej; Tejeda, Alina; Galindo, Miguel A.; Sutter, Roland W.

    Abstract in English:

    ABSTRACT Cuba eliminated polio in 1962 and was among the first countries to do so. Since then, only 20 cases of vaccine-derived paralytic poliomyelitis have been reported. Because Cuba used oral poliovirus vaccine exclusively in two mass campaigns usually in February and April each year, Sabin viruses were detected only within approximately 6–8 weeks after each annual campaign. This made Cuba a very attractive site to study the epidemiology of poliomyelitis in a tropical country without risk of secondary transmission of Sabin viruses for a large part of each year, an advantage over countries that used oral poliovirus vaccine continuously throughout the year in routine immunization programs. This report summarizes the unique scientific collaboration between Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health and WHO, with participation by US scientists, in the global effort to eradicate polio.
  • Seeking Biomarkers of Early Childhood Malnutrition’s Long-term Effects Lessons in International Cooperation

    Valdés-Sosa, Pedro A.; Galler, Janina R.; Bryce, Cyralene P.; Rabinowitz, Arielle G.; Bringas-Vega, María L.; Hernández-Mesa, Nibaldo; Taboada-Crispi, Alberto

    Abstract in English:

    ABSTRACT Protein–energy malnutrition affects one in nine people worldwide and is most prevalent among children aged less than five years in low-income countries. Early childhood malnutrition can have damaging neurodevelopmental effects, with significant increases in cognitive, neurological and mental health problems over the lifespan, outcomes which can also extend to the next generation. This article describes a research collaboration involving scientists from five centers in Barbados, China, Cuba and the USA. It builds on longer-term joint work between the Barbados Nutrition Study (which, over a 45-year span, has extensively documented nutritional, health, behavioral, social and economic outcomes of individuals who experienced protein–energy malnutrition in the first year of life and healthy controls from the same classrooms and neighborhoods) and the Cuban Neuroscience Center (which has developed low-cost brain imaging methods that can be readily used in low income settings to identify biomarkers for early detection and treatment of adverse consequences of childhood malnutrition). This collaboration, which involved Barbadian, Cuban and US scientists began in the 1970s, when quantitative EEG techniques were applied to EEG data collected in 1977–78, at which time study participants were aged 5–11 years. These EEG records were never fully analyzed but were stored in New York and made available to this project in 2016. These data have now been processed and analyzed, comparing EEG findings in previously malnourished and control children, and have led to the identification of early biomarkers of long-term effects of early childhood protein–energy malnutrition. The next stage of the project will involve extending earlier work by collecting EEG recordings in the same individuals at ages 45–51 years, 40 years later, and comparing findings to earlier data and to these individuals’ behavioral and cognitive outcomes. Quantitative EEG biomarkers of the effects of protein–energy malnutrition may help identify children at greatest risk for early malnutrition’s adverse neurodevelopmental effects and inform development of targeted interventions to mitigate the long-term adverse effects of protein–energy malnutrition in developing countries.
  • A Collaboration to Teach US MPH Students about Cuba’s Health Care System Lessons in International Cooperation

    O’Connell, Joan; Gálvez-González, Ana María; Scandlyn, Jean; Sala-Adam, María Rosa; Martín-Linares, Xiomara

    Abstract in English:

    ABSTRACT In 2011, the US Department of the Treasury changed its regulations to allow US students to participate in short-term education programs in Cuba. Beginning in 2012, and each year thereafter, Cuba’s National School of Public Health and the Colorado School of Public Health have jointly taught a class on the Cuban public health system. The program goals are to provide US students with an opportunity to learn about the Cuban national health system’s focus on 1) prevention and primary health care services; 2) financial and geographic access to services and health equity; 3) continuum of care across the home, family doctor-and-nurse offices, polyclinics and hospitals; 4) data collection at all levels to understand health risks, including outbreaks, and to guide resource allocation; 5) assessing patients’ health and risks using a comprehensive definition of health; 6) multisectoral collaborations between the Ministry of Public Health and other Cuban agencies and organizations to address population health risks; 7) disaster preparedness, response and recovery; and 8) provision of international health assistance. The class incorporates information about health systems in Latin American and other Caribbean countries to provide context for understanding the Cuban health system. The course includes: 1) seminars, online readings and discussions before travel to Cuba; 2) seminars at Cuba’s National School of Public Health, visits to Cuban national health institutions at all levels, from community-based family doctor-and-nurse offices and multispecialty clinics (polyclinics) to internationally recognized national health institutions, and guided visits and activities about Cuban culture and history during their 12 days in Cuba; and 3) followup course work upon return to the USA in which students integrate what they learned into their final class reports and presentations. During time spent planning, implementing and revising the program, both institutions have learned from each other about global health teaching methodologies and have laid a foundation for future teaching and research collaborations. To date, 49 individuals have participated in the program.
  • Prospects for US–Cuba Cooperation in Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Liver Transplantation Lessons in International Cooperation

    Castellanos-Fernández, Marlen I.; Infante-Velázquez, Mirtha; Arús-Soler, Enrique; Kugelmas, Marcelo; Bataller, Ramón; Villamil-Martínez, Ramón; Dorta-Guridi, Zaily; Ruenes-Domenech, Caridad

    Abstract in English:

    ABSTRACT Gastroenterology, hepatology and liver transplant exchanges between the USA and Cuba have mainly consisted of scientific events and short visits. This has facilitated Cuba’s inclusion in recognized scientific organizations, familiarity with Cuba’s biotech products for treatment of liver disease, and access by Cuban professionals to the highest level of scientific information for clinical practice. It has also given health professionals in the US a more accurate picture of Cuba’s health sector. The results of the Global Alcoholic Liver Disease Survey, which included Cuba and was designed and coordinated in the USA, opened doors to joint research and scientific publications. Until now, there have been no protocols for ongoing cooperation to enable bilateral clinical trials or continuing professional development in diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical techniques for hepatology and liver transplantation. There are many mutually beneficial research prospects in these areas. What has been accomplished to date, described in this article, is encouraging and sets the stage for future collaboration.
  • Moving Closer to Tuberculosis Elimination through Institutional Scientific Collaboration: Opportunities for Cuba and the USA Perspective

    Chapman, Helena J.; Armas-Pérez, Luisa A.; Lauzardo, Michael; González-Ochoa, Edilberto R.

    Abstract in English:

    ABSTRACT Global efforts to eliminate tuberculosis by 2050 continue to challenge health systems. In countries with low reported tuberculosis incidence, such as the USA (3.1/100,000 population) and Cuba (6.9/100,000), differences in classification by income level and health systems’ overall organizational structure are evident. However, the two countries’ low tuberculosis incidence, geographic proximity, robust research capacity and shared health priority for tuberculosis elimination provide fertile territory to strengthen collaboration for tuberculosis control in clinical, laboratory and community settings. Two tuberculosis symposia in Cuba—one at the Cuba Salud Convention in 2015 and the other at the International Forum on Hygiene and Epidemiology in 2016—were instrumental in stimulating dialogue on continued efforts towards eliminating tuberculosis by 2050. In this article, we describe tuberculosis burden in the USA and Cuba, critically analyze strengths and challenges experienced in areas of low tuberculosis incidence and provide recommendations for future institutional collaboration to support tuberculosis elimination and improved population health.
Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba Oakland - California - United States
E-mail: editors@medicc.org