A Lindenwood-Belleville professor was one of the first Americans to get a look behind the barrier between the United States and Cuba during a mission to see how the island nation’s medical system works.
Roy Lantry was one of 20 people nationwide chosen by the American Public Health Association for the journey.
“It was a medical education tour,” Lantry said. “We went to check out medical infrastructure of their country and talk to doctors and nurses and things like that.”
The trip happened in April. But the results are being shared now with Lantry’s fall term students at Lindenwood-Belleville. The campus’ interim president Brett Barger said its rare and valuable insight for the students in Lantry’s classes.
“We’re always proud to say that we have students from all over Illinois, the country, and the world but equally proud to know that our faculty, like Roy Lantry, go out into the world to share and gain knowledge that becomes part of the classroom experience at Lindenwood-Belleville,” Barger said.
While Cuba is known as an isolated and poor country to the rest of the world, Lantry said he found their medical system to be efficient, innovative and effective. He said there are definitely things doctors and government leaders in the United States could learn from their Caribbean neighbor.
“A lot of people don’t know this. But they have one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world in Cuba,” Lantry said. “They’re also well-known for their work in the area of infectious diseases. They do things very well in their setting.”
Lantry said in socialist Cuba people who want to be doctors have to submit their education resumes to the government to try to get into medical school. If they’re successful, they get a free two-story house upon graduation, he said. The first story serves as their clinic, and the second story is where their family lives. They also get about $50 a month in cash.
“They do half a day of office hours and half a day of house calls,” Lantry said. “They don’t make much money. But they don’t need much money. All healthcare is free, and food is very cheap.”
In Cuba, the American group spent three days in Havana and three days in towns on the other side of the island.
“Each community has its own clinic with its own ER,” Lantry said. “It’s a very cost effective way of getting treatment without going to a large hospital in another town. Very interesting.”
Lantry said the elimination of political barriers between the United States and Cuba can be beneficial to the medical establishments on both sides.
“There has really been a barrier to exchanging research,” Lantry said. “We’re hoping to open that up. They’re more advanced than what people seem to expect (from them) in the United States.”
Beyond their official business, Lantry said he enjoyed talking with Cubans about their lives and sampling Cuban food.
“They’re very happy with their way of life,” Lantry said. “Food and the things they need are cheap, and when you don’t have a lot of money, you’re used to it. Many of them were concerned that if they became more connected to the outside world and the United States that it would cause prices there to go up.”
Cubans had lots of questions about President Barack Obama, Lantry said. They wanted to know what people thought about the American president, universal healthcare and his plans for future relations with Cuba.
“Their housing wouldn’t meet our standards,” Lantry said. “But they’re more modern than people think.”