Theresa Ly: The seven days that I spent in Cuba felt like a month-long journey. Each day was compacted with back-to-back events that culminated into a fulfilling weeklong experience. I would describe the program as a perfect combination of health, political, and cultural education. Through visiting the Ministry of Public Health, polyclinic, nursing school, Center for Prevention of STIs, medical school, and nursing home in Cuba, I reinforced my belief that health is a universal right deserved by every person in the world. Seeing how Cubans are striving to achieve the best health outcomes for their people inspires me to travel to more new places to learn how health is practiced globally. I hope to introduce to the U.S. health strategies that have been successful in other countries, as well as to implement in other countries the strategies that have been successful in the U.S. For instance, I feel that the U.S. can learn from Cuba’s emphasis on primary care at the community level. On a political viewpoint, the Cuban Women’s Federation, Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples, and Museum of the Revolution opened my eyes to the roles that politics plays in health. I realized that female empowerment can motivate women to feel responsible for their own health and their family’s health, which may be contributing to Cuba’s low infant mortality rate and high life expectancy. I felt endorsed in Cuban culture as I ate gourmet Cuban dishes daily, attended the jazz festival on the last night of the program, and explored the streets of Havana during my free time. The weeklong experience was deeply satisfying because it showed me that I want to work on a level that will impact people’s health worldwide.
Anna Ferro: On the final morning before departing home, many of us felt a sense of ambivalence. We were happy to be returning to our loved ones, yet felt completely immersed in Cuba’s beauty and culture, which had us yearning for a little bit more. But as they say, all good things must come to an end.
We have been deeply enriched with knowledge about the Cuban healthcare system and that good preventative healthcare does not have to be expensive. Community-oriented primary care provided by a doctor-nurse team, with focus on prevention and education, can be a model for medical care in everyday health issues.
We are grateful to have been given the opportunity to experience Cuba and its’ diverse culture, preserved history, and enviable healthcare system. We understand culture impacts the health of a person, family, and community. This global trip has undeniably heightened our awareness and amplified our desire to make change in our community as nursing leaders.
Courtney Bakas: Travelling to Cuba provides a unique opportunity to break down some of the misconceptions that we, as Americans, may have. Through learning the history of Cuba one will begin to understand just how much the United States has strangled Cuba throughout the past century. No matter what opinion you hold about Cuba, or their politics, you cannot disagree that they have a knack for utilizing the resources they have and being able to survive and, more often, thrive. This concept became visible to us in nearly ever aspect we encountered in Cuba – from the Cuban’s pride in their public health based healthcare system to their cheerful outlook on life that was present in nearly all the Cubans we met throughout our trip.
At one point, I was able to speak with some Cubans around my age and we began discussing politics and worldviews. The entire week when we had questions on the opinions of Fidel Castro they were continuously shrugged off or dismissed. In light of his recent death, I was intrigued about the viewpoints of these young Cubans on the leader that had impacted so much of their history. They told me about their hopes for change and the introduction of more political freedoms. They unanimously feared that Cuban culture would begin to dismantle because many of the young Cubans are currently leaving Cuba for other countries and better opportunities. They also revealed that you could not truly have public political opinions; you keep those to yourself or your closest family and friends. Yet they did have an immense respect for the leadership of Cuba and a pride in their socialist system that has allowed education and healthcare equality for all. Hopefully it is young Cubans, such as those I met, who will someday be able to bring the change they desire to their beloved country. Their love for Cuba and the Cuban way of live must continue to thrive through any future political and social changes.
It will be interesting to watch Cuba grow and change throughout the next decade, to see how American relations with Cuba changes, and how tourism will impact this country that seems to be frozen in time. I feel lucky to have seen Cuba during this very important time period in history. Through their stories, their history, and their fiery spirits, the strength and resilience of the Cuban people is visible all throughout Havana. What a beautiful country and what a beautiful culture. This is a travel opportunity I will never forget.