UIC welcomes Cuban health officials to Chicago


Officials from the Cuban Ministry of Health will spend the week meeting with Chicago community and University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System leaders and touring UI Health’s federally qualified Mile Square Health Centers, beginning today. The visit marks the launch of a new partnership, funded by a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to the University of Illinois Cancer Center, aimed at improving health in under-resourced communities through improvements in community-based care. The initial visit focuses on maternal and infant health and cancer screening and prevention.

The Cuban Ministry of Health delegates are:

  • Sonia Maria Gonzalez Vega, chief of primary health for the Camaguey municipality
  • Jose Armando Arronte Villamarin, chief of primary health for Las Tunas province
  • Carlos Calvis Cabrera, international health brigade coordinator

Media are invited to the following events:

Monday, Jan. 9

  • 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
    Mile Square Health Center, main clinic, 1220 S. Wood St.
    The Cuban delegation will tour the clinic and be available for interviews.

Wednesday, Jan. 11

  • 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
    Mile Square Health Center, Englewood, 641 W. 63rd St.
    The Cuban delegation will tour the clinic and be available for interviews.
  • 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
    Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation, 815 W. 63rd St.
    The Cuban delegation will meet with Glen Fulton of the board of directors. They will discuss economic development in Englewood and how economic health correlates with the community health. The discussion will be followed by a driving tour of the neighborhood.

Thursday, Jan. 12

  • 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
    Mile Square Health Center, Back of the Yards, 4630 S. Bishop St.
    The Cuban delegation will tour the clinic and be available for interviews.

Contact Jackie Carey at jmcarey@uic.edu, 312-996-8277, or Sharon Parmet at sparmet@uic.edu, 312-413-2695, for more information.


This visit marks the first time Cuban health officials will observe how health care is delivered in low-resource communities in the U.S. with the aim of collaborating on the development of improved care delivery systems that can be used in both countries.

“Just a short time ago it would have been very hard to imagine members of the Cuban Ministry of Health visiting Chicago to observe and exchange ideas with community health leaders here at UI Health and in Chicago, but this week, we are watching as exactly that comes to pass,” says UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis. “The sharing of knowledge across borders and cultures is a practice we value very highly at UIC, and we take pride in participating in and fostering this historic exchange.”

The Health Ministry delegates and UI Health and local Chicago community leaders will discuss how the mutual exchange of best practices in delivering quality health care in underserved communities can help reduce infant mortality rates and improve maternal health and cancer screening and surveillance programs.

“Delivering quality care in underserved communities with a focus on reducing health disparities is at the very foundation of what UI Health is all about, and is embodied by our community-based Mile Square Health Centers,” says Dr. Robert Barish, vice chancellor for health affairs at UIC. “We are eager to collaborate, share knowledge and learn from each other on this historic visit.”

Dr. Robert Winn, associate vice chancellor of community based practice at UI Health and director at the University of Illinois Cancer Center, says “the Cuban health system does preventive health very, very well, and they do it without a lot of money.”

“We are hoping to work with our Cuban counterparts to identify practices that have worked for them, and also let them observe some of the ways we deliver health care that may be very different from how they operate, in the hopes that this exchange will lead to improved health for populations in both our countries,” said Winn. For example, Cuba has very low infant mortality rates compared to the United States, but it has not had experience with some of the technology used in the U.S. health care setting.

“This visit has only been made possible by President Obama’s work to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba, and we are proud to be engaging in this historic exchange for the benefit of the people in each of our countries, but also to cement and confirm President Obama’s legacy,” said Winn, who, with Kathy Tossas-Milligan, director of the UI Cancer Center’s Office of International Cancer Health Equity Partnerships, was recently invited to the White House to honor the opening of relations with Cuba.

The partnership received significant support from Sen. Richard Durbin, U.S. Reps. Danny Davis, Robyn Kelly and Barbara Lee, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrisey, Illinois Medical District Executive Director Dr. Suzet McKinney, and others.

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