Cuba: Natural medicine facilities to be certified

Havana.— At least ten local Natural and Traditional Medicine (MNT) production facilities, across the same number of Cuban provinces, are set to receive certification for meeting best pharmaceutical practice standards by the end of this year, according to a sector expert. (Photo:

Speaking to ACN, Johann Perdomo Delgado, head of the Ministry of Health’s MNT department, confirmed that centers of this kind are based in Ar­temisa, Mayabeque, Matanzas, Villa Clara, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey, Las Tunas, Holguín and Santiago de Cuba.

Certification process

He added that the certification process will be undertaken by the Center for State Control of Medicine Quality, Cuba’s medications governing body, founded in 1989 following the approval of a ministerial resolution.

Perdomo Delgado noted that the main objective of the process is to improve the centers’ infrastructure and technology, and ensure that they receive plant biomass from the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Minsap representative also noted these raw materials contain elements essential to on-site and dispensary production of aloe vera, marigold, lime, passionflower, French oregano and pine products, among others.

Prescribed to millions of people

Perdomo Delgado, MNT grade one and two specialist also noted that natural medications and traditional remedies were prescribed to millions of people during the first week of the year alone.

He stated that in addition to providing phytodrugs and bee-derived products, MNT also includes acupuncture and related techniques, homeopathy, flower-therapy, ozone-therapy, hydro-therapy (sun and sea water treatments) traditional therapeutic exercises, and nutritional health-food guidance services.

In 2011, the Center for State Control of Medicine Quality merged with the Center for State Control of Medical Devices to create the Center for State Control of Medicines, Medical Devices and Equipment, although it maintains its original acronym, Cecmed.

Cuba: Promising prospects for the treatment of cerebral ischemia

Source:  Granma
July 28 2016

by: Orfilio Peláez |

Promising research results

The discovery of the neuro-protective qualities of a new molecule called JM-20, opens up promising prospects for the treatment of cerebral ischemia

promising search results

A new molecule called JM-20 opens up promising prospects for the treatment of cerebral ischemia. Photo:Prensa Latina

Cuban researchers have discovered pharmacological evidence of the neuro-protective qualities of a new molecule called JM-20, opening up promising prospects for the treatment of cerebral ischemia, a serious global health problem.

Next phase of clinical trials on humans

This discovery now means that the next phase of clinical trials on humans can take place. If successful and the neuro-protective qualities of JM-20 are proven, this could lead to the creation of the first product with effective therapeutic properties to treat the condition and its associated effects. The molecule and its derivatives are protected under a 100% national patent.

Scientific entities involved in the study include the Medicines Development and Research Center’s (Cidem) Neuro-Protection Laboratory; the Research Center for Biological Investigations and Evaluations; the University of Havana’s (UH) Pharmacy and Food Institute; Organic Synthesis Laboratory at the UH’s Chemistry Faculty; Institute of Basic Sciences’ Biology department at Brazil’s Río Grande del Sur Federal University; and Cidem’s Histology Laboratory.

Winner of the 2015 Academy of Sciences of Cuba National Prize

Winner of the 2015 Academy of Sciences of Cuba National Prize in the category of Biomedical Sciences, the study has also received a Special Award from Citma for the most important scientific result.

Operation Miracle: an example of humanism and solidarity

Source:  Granma
July 11 2016

by: Jesús Jank Curbelo |

On July 9, on the initiative of Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, late president of Venezuela, Operation Miracle – a program providing comprehensive medical care to patients suffering from a variety of eye conditions – was founded

operation miracle an example of humanism and solidarity.jpg

Fidel meeting with doctors, including Eneida Pérez Candelaria ( far left) and Marcelino Ríos Torres (seated at the table), prior to the founding of Mission Miracle. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Lizet Sánchez

In Venezuela

On July 9, on the initiative of Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, late president of Venezuela, Operation Miracle – a program providing comprehensive medical care to patients suffering from a variety of eye conditions – was founded.

According to figures provided by the Cuban Ophthalmology Institute, during its first year only Venezuelan patients were treated under the program, at the Ramón Pando Ferrer Hospital in Havana. Surgeries were also performed in Santiago de Cuba and Holguín.

To other Caribbean, Central and South American countries

In 2005, the program was extended to other Caribbean, Central and South American countries. Initially all patients traveled to Cuba to be treated, however in 2006 ophthalmology centers were set up in various nations, making treatment more readily available to those most in need.

In order to carry out the program modern technology was purchased and the island’s ophthalmology services underwent a restoration process. Many Cuban specialists, nurses, technicians and engineers were trained, while the Cuban Ophthalmology Faculty was also founded, from which over 600 specialists have graduated to date.

Initially implemented in Cuba

Operation Miracle was initially implemented in Cuba, where it has been gradually perfected over all levels of the healthcare system nationwide.

According to the report, today there are currently 65 ophthalmology centers, equipped with 93 operating theaters, in 18 countries across Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa, providing treatment to people in 34 nations. 

Soon two million surgeries will have been performed under what is now known as Mission Miracle, “a precedent in our history of ophthalmologic collaboration around the world, which makes said program a further example of the internationalist character of our healthcare system,” noted Dr. Juan Raúl Hernández Silva, the first Cuban ophthalmologist to perform eye surgery in Venezuela in 2005.

Canadian NGO Awards Cuban Doctors against Ebola

Source:  Prensa Latina
July 4 2016

Canadian non-governmental organization Help to Fight Ebola (HFEC) delivered an award called Friends of Humanity in Africa to the government of Cuba and the Cuban doctors who helped to fight the Ebola virus.

raul bids farewell tomedical brigade heading for sierra leone.jpgThe distinction was received in a special ceremony, by the Cuban General Consul in Toronto, Canada, Javier Domokos Ruiz, on behalf of the Cuban authorities and the doctors and nurses who took part in the struggle against the Ebola virus in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Conakry.

javier domokos ruiz cuba.JPGIn his words Domokos reminded the important Cuban contribution in moments in which panic and individualism prevailed, in the middle of one of the most recent and hardest sanitary crises the world has ever faced.

‘The Cuban doctors were already in the affected areas when the epidemic came in, as part of the long page of solidarity of the island with the brothers and sisters from African nations and that it has seen more than 70 thousand public health professionals in African soil’, underlined the diplomat.

fidel y Marti 2.jpgHe noted as well as, that is was thanks to the humanist and universal vision of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, the Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, that the country set at the disposal of many nations, the prestige and the high medical quality of its physicians, through the united work of the international brigade Henry Reeve.

In the ceremony there were present out-standing personalities of the political, scientific and business life of Canada.

The main speech at the event was given by Ndaba Mandela, grandson of the legendary

ndaba mandela2

Ndaba Mandela

fighter South African anti-apartheid Nelson Mandela.

Answering to calls of help expressed by Ban Ki Moon, Secretary-General of the Organization of United Nations (UNO) and the World Health Organization in October 2014, Cuba sent 256 members of the Henry Revee contingent, to face the virus of the Ébola in Guinea Conakry, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In these three nations of West Africa, the Cuban medical personnel, in addition to being employed at the remedy of the dangerous virus, contributed also to the sanitary prevention, something that there recognized the authorities of the affected nations and of international.

PAHO Director praises Cuban medical support

Source:  Granma
June 29 2016

by: Prensa Latina(PL) |

On June 28, the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa Etienne, praised Cuba’s contribution to training health professionals and its medical missions in numerous countries worldwide.

paho praises cuba 2016.jpg

The region is facing a political and economic situation which presents great challenges to advancing toward universal healthcare. Photo: ABI

On June 28, the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa Etienne, praised Cuba’s contribution to training health professionals and its medical missions in numerous countries worldwide.

Participating in the closing ceremony of the First International Encounter on Primary Healthcare Experiences, Etienne noted that there are currently over 10,000 Cuban health workers in Brazil alone.

She also mentioned the island’s healthcare missions in El Sal­vador, Nicaragua, Ecuador and small island nations of the Caribbean, such as Dominica.  Etienne stated that 706 Cuban collaborators, almost 100 of whom are affiliated with the Mi Salud (My Health) program, much like that of the island’s community primary healthcare initiative, are currently working in Bolivia.

Cuba’s training program

The PAHO director highlighted the island’s training program, which has seen many Bolivian students graduate as doctors.  According to PL, Cuban medical collaboration with so-called Third World Countries began in 1960, when a group of emergency doctors was sent to Chile to treat victims of an earthquake which left thousands dead. Later, in 1963, the first permanent Cuban medical brigade arrived in a recently independent Algeria. Since then Cuban health professionals have offered services in over 120 countries worldwide.

Etienne noted that the region is facing a political and economic situation which presents great challenges to advancing toward universal healthcare.

Also participating in the encounter were delegates from Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Brazil, and Bolivia.

The PAHO Director also praised policies implemented by the Bolivian government to extend medical coverage to all communities.  In this context, she recognized the advances of the South American nation in reducing malnutrition, infant mortality, poverty and illiteracy and economic inequality

Cuba Awards 8 Medical Scholarships to Jamaicans

Source:  Jamaica Information Service
June 26, 2016

by E Hartman Record

cuba awards medical scholarships to Jamaica 2016.jpgPhoto:  Donald Delahaye

Eight young Jamaicans have been awarded medical scholarships to study in Cuba for the 2016-2017 academic year, under the Cuba-Jamaica Cooperation Programme.

Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Bernardo Guanche Hernandez, presented the scholarships to the awardees on June 24, at the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba, in Kingston.

In his remarks, Ambassador Hernandez said the programme has helped to strengthen the friendship and cooperative ties between Cuba and Jamaica over the years.

He noted that Cuban institutions have kept that programme ongoing, despite Cuba’s economic challenges.

Cuba offers cooperation in countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean

“Cuba has also offered and continues to offer cooperation, mainly in the fields of health and education, in countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. Not only Cuban teachers have rendered their services in many developing countries, but also many students from those countries have studied and graduated, free of charge, in Cuban universities,” he added.

The Ambassador congratulated the recipients of the scholarships and encouraged them to do their best.

Apart from studying medicine, Ambassador Hernandez said the awardees will learn the Spanish language and interact with Cubans.

In his remarks, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Kevin Harvey, said that 300 students had applied for the scholarship programme.

Cuba is always there to stand by us

He noted that the cooperation programme had not only improved the relations between Jamaica and Cuba, but has augmented the service provided in Jamaica’s health sector.

Dr. Harvey pointed to many interventions and surgeries done by Cuban physicians over the years to assist Jamaicans.

“We have had this long-standing arrangement and relationship and sharing. Once we have an issue, Cuba is always there to stand by us,” he said.
Dr. Harvey told the awardees that acquiring the medical skills should not only be their main focus, but they should also learn how to communicate with patients, another aspect of their training.

“One of the challenges we have now in the health sector is the limited interaction between the physician and the patient. We do not talk to our patients as much as we should and we do not provide that counselling support that the patient requires,” he said.

“Learn about the medicine, learn the drugs to be prescribed, learn how to examine, and learn how to speak to your patients,” Dr. Harvey urged.

The Calixto García School of Medical Sciences, a bastion of the Revolution

Source:  Granma
June 27 2016

Author: |

As a historic center for human resources training, today Havana’s Calixto Garcia School of Medical Sciences is a cornerstone of the results achieved by Cuba in the field of public health.

Dr. Olga Maria Rocillo was a student at the faculty and has spent 60 years teaching there.  Photo:  Jose M. Correa

Origin –  January 23, 1896

The institution of higher education offers technical and university courses in Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Health Technology, and Psychology, to professionals working in the various Cuban medical programs both inside and outside the country.

The school’s origins date back to January 23, 1896, when the Alfonso XIII Hospital was built close to the Castillo del Príncipe fort. Responding to the demands of university students, in 1943 this was renamed the General Calixto García University Hospital, by presidential decree.

To begin with, the school included the departments of Physiology, Physics-Biology and Chemistry-Biology, with the later addition of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology. As a novelty, the subject of Medical Ethics was introduced, absent from the curriculum at private universities. In the 1930s the teaching of obstetrics was also incorporated.

Early revolutionary struggles

Students and teachers openly participated in the revolutionary struggles against the sell-out and semi-colonial governments of the twentieth century, and in January, 1934, Dr. José Elías Borges Carreras, prominent leader of the National Medical Federation, was killed during a strike.

Medical students took part in the protests against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista beginning March 10, 1952, and provided assistance to wounded revolutionaries. Student Manuel Hernández León became one of the martyrs of the struggle, along with other employees, savagely tortured and then assassinated.

With the closure of the University of Havana in December 1956, the medical school also closed its doors, and several of the young people enrolled there set off for the Sierra Maestra, to fight in the ranks of the Rebel Army led by Fidel Castro.

A source of patriots

With the triumph of the Revolution, new management was appointed at the faculty on February 2, 1959, encouraging the admission of professors sincerely committed to the people. They also provided care in the Calixto García hospital itself, given the mass exodus of professionals abroad, encouraged by U.S. media campaigns.

Augusta Vanessa Jose, from Angola, admires the empathy between Cuban health professionals and patients, indicative of the humanist nature of medicine in Cuba.  Photo:  Jose M. Correa.

At the same time, they trained a group of promising students in different subjects to teach the hundreds of young people who entered the university en mass, given the opening up of higher education to all.

So explains Sc.D. Olga María Piera Rocillo, who enrolled in 1954 and saw her studies interrupted in 1956 due to the closure of the school, before continuing in 1959. She was asked to assist with teaching classes on Clinical Propaedeutics and Medical Semiotics for second year students, prior to graduating.

In courses taken before the triumph of the Revolution, students were forbidden from touching patients, Olga explained, noting that she has met many colleagues who graduated without having witnessed a live birth, visited an operating room, or accompanied other doctors in practice.

The impact of the revolution 

On graduating in 1962, Olga was invited to study the specialty of Anatomic Pathology given the withdrawal of specialists in this branch of medicine, which she grew to love, thanks to the dedicated efforts of a Bulgarian professor, who was providing solidarity in Cuba.

The Doctor of Sciences and tenured professor, describes teaching as the center of her life: “I enter a class and it is as if an artist is taking to the stage to become a character. In the classroom I give it my all, and show my students where to find out more, so they can surpass me,” she notes, adding “Today I note how my students occupy different leadership positions, others are professors and several are scientists.”

She has a range of anecdotes regarding her students to tell. She recalls those who failed to make the grade due to spelling mistakes, the sadness of an Ecuadoran student when his father was ill. Also student Augusto Enriquez, who dared to sing on the same stage as the Argentine troubadour Mercedes Sosa and today devotes himself to music.

Comprehensive professionals

The professor advises her students to base their diagnosis on the accuracy of the clinical examination; to learn to listen to the patient; to distinguish the visible pathological changes in the body; relate prior conditions to the current state and order laboratory and radiological tests when needed. “It is usual in contemporary medical practice to rely only on the complementary tests,” the experienced doctor explains.

Faculty Dean Mabel Aguiar Gorguis, a second degree specialist in Comprehensive General Medicine, agrees with her colleague. She notes that a peculiarity of the Cuban school is the integration of theory and practice, as from the first year of study students undertake rotations at different health care levels, learning through practice.

The faculty has several teaching locations in three municipalities of the province of Havana for these rotations: Habana del Este, Central Havana and Old Havana. Specifically, the facilities of the Calixto García University Hospital for the teaching of clinical and surgical sciences, the Central Havana Pediatric Hospital for child and maternity care, and the América Arias Maternity Hospital for gynecology and obstetrics. Specialized centers and tertiary institutes are also used for postgraduate education.

The Calixto García Faculty of Medical Sciences offers degree courses in Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Health Technology and Psychology. Photo: Jose M. Correa

There is a teaching department in each Municipal Health Administration

Throughout the country, there is a teaching department in each Municipal Health Administration closely linked with the school and responsible for arranging student medical practice in each area.

Mabel notes, “From the first year, medical students start to perform basic nursing procedures. I mean hand washing; measuring blood pressure; intravenous, subcutaneous and intramuscular injections. That is, necessary skills to interact with patients and their families. Of course, they are accompanied by a tutor, the attending physician in the clinic in which they find themselves.”

Students at the forefront

These same steps are followed by students from other countries enrolled at the school, who either self-finance their studies or have scholarships funded via exchange agreements signed between their governments and Cuba. Students from a total of 28 nations study alongside Cubans.

Another group undertakes short courses, internships, residencies in different medical specialties, masters and doctorates. The medical degrees offered by the faculty have been accredited and certified as “Course of Excellence” on three occasions, fuelling the enrolment of approximately 4,000 international students in each academic year.

Another important area is the research conducted within the curriculum, responding to strategic lines of inquiry carried out by groups of professors, which is continued in postgraduate courses, masters and doctorates. This knowledge is shared in different scientific conferences convened by the faculty staff.

Personal effort and dedication

This is corroborated by medical student Alberto Alonso Mompié, who notes that his degree course demands a great deal of personal effort and dedication. However, he combines his studies with extra-curricular activities, cultural events and sports.

“We participate in other activities related to awareness and disease prevention in the community,” he explains, adding, “I’m talking about the Health Fairs, during which we staff different stands in a park to explain sexually transmitted diseases, non-communicable diseases, control of diabetes and hypertension, hygiene at home, and many other subjects. We have done so in the Los Sitios neighborhood, the Villa Panamericana, and along Havana’s Prado Avenue.”

Meanwhile, Yaneisys Gutierrez Villavicencio, in her third year of medicine, notes that students of the faculty actively participate in the country’s political life, “I can mention two examples, the March of the Torches, held every year on the evening of January 27 to commemorate the birth of José Martí, which we lead. We also organize a camp prior to May 1st, and we parade with the people on International Workers’ Day.”

Students of other nationalities also participate in these activities as Augusta Vanessa José, from Angola, notes, “I have witnessed the humanism in treating patients. I admire this chemistry of empathy achieved between doctor and patient. I find it fascinating to study medicine in Cuba.”