Rotarian Shares Perspective on Trip to Cuba

While in Cuba, local resident James Nash noticed a distinct similarity to an organization near and dear to him.
The longtime Rotary Club of San Marino member and retired Emmy-winning news director for CBS-TV recently accompanied a group of legal and medical professionals to the Caribbean nation, which continues to be known for its stubborn dedication to its Communist government and maintaining frosty relations with the U.S. even three decades after the Cold War melted.
“One of the things the Cuban medical system instills is a mission, like what we have here in Rotary Club,” Nash said. “A mission to make someone’s life better.”
Nash, a skilled researcher, in May served as a facilitator for the delegation and traveled with it to Havana. He said since his retirement more than a year ago, he often has been approached for similar projects and this was one “I did not say ‘No’ to.” He discussed his observations as the featured speaker at last week’s Rotary Club’s meeting and barbecue at Southwestern Academy.
“When you talk about something like Cuba and the United States, you can’t do it in 40 minutes,” he said frankly.
The delegation was examining the nation’s medical system, its effect on the health of its population and its roots in the state-funded Latin American School of Medicine in Havana. Nash discussed how the government used data on how expectant mothers cared for themselves during and post-pregnancy and implemented a nationwide healthcare policy for expectant women in the 1970s.
Not dismissing the nation’s human rights and political shortcomings, Nash explained that the country’s government had nevertheless fostered a healthcare system often rivaling the quality of American and European outlets, according to World Health Organization studies. In spite of risk factors for people of color, Cuba has essentially eliminated diabetes among its population, Nash pointed out.
“You know why?” he asked, rhetorically. “Well, their approach is preventative medicine as opposed to reactionary.”
Nash also talked about the medical school, explaining that it was completely free to attend, had its 25,000 students begin hands-on work by the second year of enrollment and took in students from all over the world – including the U.S.
Nash said he met American students from rural states like North Dakota and Minnesota, who hoped to take advantage of their elite training and lack of debt by returning home to immediately fill huge health care voids.
“I saw about 10 people there who wanted to go back to their communities because there wasn’t anything there,” he said.
“Take a look at the humanitarian effort that Cuba has put into their work,” Nash added. “Like Rotary, it doesn’t matter what your beliefs are.”

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