In October 2015, Dr. Gregory Skuta led a delegation of sixteen ophthalmology professionals to Cuba to engage in professional exchanges. Dr. Skuta is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Dean McGee Eye Institute and the Edward L. Gaylord Professor and Chair of the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology in Oklahoma City. During his time in Cuba, Dr. Skuta was also the serving President of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), amongst other appointments.
Upon arrival in Havana, each ophthalmology professional was able to get a sense of eye care practices in Cuba. The main focuses of the delegation were as follows:
- Discover how young ophthalmologists are changing organized medicine
- Compare medical therapies for glaucoma in the Cuban health care system versus the US health care system
- Dry eye and glaucoma: Double the trouble
- Study the evolution of the health care system
- Understand the link between social media and medicine
To accomplish the goals listed above, US delegates partnered with the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples who served as their official hosts. Delegates met with representatives from the Cuban Ministry of Health for an introduction to the Cuban health care system, its structure, and the role of ophthalmology in Cuban healthcare. Additionally scheduled exchange opportunities included a visit to the Cuban Society of Ophthalmology and visit a local policlinico, a community-based health care facility. While at the policlinico, US professionals interacted directly with their Cuban counterparts to discuss the role of community doctors and nurses and the referral process for ophthalmologists. A portion of the delegation was also dedicated to studying and understanding the education of Cuban ophthalmologists with a visit to Cuba’s Ophthalmological Institute “Pando Ferrer”. A visit to the “Escuela Especial Abel Santamaria para Ciegos y Debiles Visuales”, a special school for the blind and visually impaired, allowed delegates to gain insight on how the visually disabled are cared for in an educational setting.
Along with meetings, site visits, professional exchanges, and demonstrations, our group of professionals had the opportunity to experience the culture of Cuba. Walking tours of Havana, visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, authentic live Cuban music, and plates of local Cuban cuisine were dispersed between professional meetings.
After having the opportunity to study and travel in Cuba, professionals said the greatest benefit of participating in the delegation was “understanding Cuban Society”, “seeing Cuba, meeting the Cuban ophthalmologists and understanding the Cuban health care system”, “interactions with colleagues, both US and Cuban,” and “making new friends.” Professionals Abroad is looking forward to having the Leaders in American Ophthalmology participate in future professional delegations.