Medical students to bring health supplies to CubaBy Catherine Gianaro
Medical Center Public Affairs
For most University students, summer brings a long-awaited and well-deserved break. But for 10 first-year medical school studentsthis summer also brings with it a mission of mercy.
For the third year in a row, members of the REMEDY Medical Aid Missiona student organization in the Pritzker School of Medicine concerned with international health issueswill travel to Havana, Cuba, this month, taking along donations of medical equipment and supplies. Items such as asthma and allergy medications, inhalers, epidural kits and needles will help alleviate Cubas critical shortage of health care.
As medical students, we are dedicated to combating health disparities that exist anywhere. In this case we are focusing on the disparities that exist in Cuba, said Gmerice Hammond, one of the students traveling abroad.
The effects of the U.S. embargoes have disabled trade as well as donations across Cuban borders, she said. Were talking about offering supplies to address some of the most basic health care needs. And for treatable conditions well be offering medicines, most of which would go unused and would be wasted here in the states.
REMEDY is a national not-for-profit organization that provides international medical relief while reducing solid medical waste from U.S. hospitals by promoting the practice of recovery of open-but-unused surgical supplies.
Recovered Medical Equipment for the Developing Worldnicknamed REMEDY when it was founded in 1991attempts to connect the critical shortages of supplies in developing nations with the overabundance of these same supplies in U.S. hospitals, from which a tremendous amount of unused, but clean, supplies are disposed.
Besides providing some greatly needed medical supplies, the students hope to create awareness of the critical health needs of this developing nation, located a mere 90 miles off the Florida coast. Hammond said the group plans to interact not only with physicians, but also hospital administrators and patients. We hope to learn as much as we can about the health care system in Cuba and to raise awareness here in the states about health conditions abroad, she said.
The Pritzker students will be taking more than $70,000 worth of medical supplies and equipmenteverything from aspirin and syringes to cancer chemotherapy drugsdonated from such health care companies as Abbott Pharmaceuticals, King Pharmaceuticals, Mead Johnson and Company, Pharma-Tek Inc. and Schwarz Pharma. The group also received large donations from AmeriCares and the Catholic Medical Mission Board.
Because of current embargoes, medical equipment cannot be shipped to Cuba without being accompanied by personnel. The Chicago students raised funds, solicited donations and arranged all logistics surrounding the trip. Once in Havana, the group will travel to local hospitals and clinics disbursing the supplies under the guidance of Dr. Donald Graham, an infectious disease specialist from Springfield, Ill. Graham is donating his time and expense to serve as the groups adviser for the trip.
The other Pritzker students traveling to Cuba are Afshan Ahmad, Renaisa Anthony, Patrick Barrett, Allegra Lobell, Kathryn Ossowski, Shiraz Maskatia, Cory Schulte, Michael Sweeney and Dan Virnich.
This trip will bring the total to 34 medical students from the University who have traveled to Cuba bringing more than $200,000 worth of donations.
This year, the students worked with the Cuba AIDS Project to obtain government licenses to export the donated supplies and pharmaceuticals to Cuba.
The Cuba AIDS Project schedules small groups of U.S. citizens and permanent residents affiliated with nongovernmental organizations to travel to, from and widely within Cuba to provide humanitarian medical assistance and educational materials about sexually transmitted diseases.
More information about the trip, sponsorship of the students or the program may be obtained by contacting Hammond at (773) 354-6643 or firstname.lastname@example.org.