April 17, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 14

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    Student medical aid mission resumes in June, when group travels to Cuba with pharmaceuticals, supplies

    By Catherine Gianaro
    Medical Center Public Affairs

    For the fourth year in a row, first-year University students in the Pritzker School of Medicine will travel to Havana, Cuba, with donations that provide hospitals and many non-governmental organizations with needed medical equipment and supplies for such readily treatable ailments as high blood pressure, fever, common colds and nutritional deficiencies.

    The students are members of Recovered Medical Equipment for the Developing World–nicknamed REMEDY when it was founded in 1991. The REMEDY Medical Aid Mission is scheduled from Sunday, June 15 through Thursday, June 26, and has nearly twice as many students involved this year as it did last year when the group’s donations totaled more than $150,000.

    Not only do this year’s participants need to raise more travel funding, but they are hoping to provide even more supplemental health care for the Cuban people with their donations.

    The students plan to contact more than 140 pharmaceutical companies for donations, as well as organizations such as the Catholic Medical Missions Board, Heart to Heart, Americares, and the University Hospitals, first-year Markus Boos said.

    “While we are optimistic that many medical resources will be donated,” he said, “we remain responsible for paying the fees associated with both shipping the supplies to Chicago and packaging them for shipment to Cuba.”

    Items such as asthma and allergy medications, inhalers, epidural kits and needles can help alleviate Cuba’s critical shortage of health care. As a result of the prevailing socioeconomic decline on the island, even the most basic medical supplies are often absent or beyond the reach of many Cubans.

    Because of a U.S. trade embargo, U.S. medical equipment cannot be shipped to Cuba without being accompanied by personnel. In order to raise the $30,000 necessary to cover shipping and travel costs, the students plan to sponsor fund-raising events, including auctions and raffles.

    Once in Havana, the group will disburse supplies at local hospitals, churches and non-governmental organizations under the guidance of Eugene Geppert, Professor in Clinical Medicine, and Nina Patel, a Fellow in Pulmonary & Critical Care, who are serving as the group’s advisors for the trip.

    Joining Boos on the trip are fellow Pritzker students Seun Adetayo, Bhawna Arya, Daisy Batista, Ryan Carlson, Daniel Choi, Latisha Deal, Natalie Debernardi, Deanna Kasperski, Lavanya Kondapalli, Kristina Lundberg, Elizabeth Myers, Daniel Pelham, Paola Poma, Eileen Rhee, Lydia Stickney, Teri Vieth, Lauren Whiteside and Mya Zapata.

    Another goal of the mission is to educate U.S. medical students about international health care, with the intent to develop physicians with a global understanding of problems and solutions in medicine. Students also hope to create awareness of the critical health needs of this developing nation, located a mere 90 miles off the Florida coast.

    “We firmly believe we can touch many lives and make a difference by carrying out our mission,” Boos added.

    The students are working with an American not-for-profit organization, the Cuba AIDS Project (http://www.cubaonline.org), to obtain government licenses to export the donated supplies and pharmaceuticals to Cuba.

    For more information about donating medical supplies or equipment, or sponsoring the students or the program, contact Boos at (773) 643-1676, or mdboos@uchicago.edu.