Cuba, as seen by medical students
is Cuba to most Americans but a series of snapshots? Dilapidated pink and blue
buildings; a sea of marching citizens dressed in matching Elián T-shirts;
the faces of people living 90 miles and an ideological ocean away.
is the Cuban people whom second-year medical student Gmerice Hammond, AB'00, cannot
stop talking about as she flips through her Cuba snapshots. The doctors and hospital
directors whom Hammond and nine other Pritzker School of Medicine students met
on a ten-day humanitarian mission to Cuba this June left a deep impression.
was amazing how dedicated they were to providing the best care, given their economic
situation and the lack of supplies," Hammond says. "Doctors aren't paid
any more than anyone else, so they are clearly driven by their passion to help
people. You could see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices." In Hammond's
photos spartan hospital rooms have badly chipped paint and patients lie in cast-iron
beds reminiscent of 1950s wards. A supply room, with its old-fashioned glass cabinets,
looks like a set from M*A*S*H.
was the third annual trip for the Pritzker group REMEDY Medical Aid Mission, part
of the national not-for-profit organization REMEDY (Recovered Medical Equipment
for the Developing World). The group donates open-but-unused medical supplies
to developing nations. This year's Pritzker emissaries carried more than $70,000
in medical supplies, including asthma and allergy medications, syringes, epidural
kits, and chemotherapy drugs.
Under current U.S.
embargoes, medical equipment cannot be shipped to Cuba without accompanying personnel.
Because of circuitous routes, Hammond says, hospitals must pay high prices for
supplies. "You don't realize what an overabundance of medical supplies the
U.S. has," she notes, "until you see how little doctors in Cuba have
to work with."
For Hammond, the trip
confirmed her career choice: the doctors' passion for their work was highly contagious.
Sharla A. Stewart