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SPRING 2016

5

Stepping off the plane was like stepping back in time.

Everything from cars to the hotel furniture looked like it

had come straight from the 1950s, with one major exception:

the most advanced and highly rated health care system in

the world.

For nine days, a group of University of South Dakota

business students would study Cuba’s health care from

within, as part of the process. The nation’s use of preventative

medicine produces consistently positive results, boasting

one of the world’s longest life expectancies and lowest infant

mortality rates, and has been noted as a model system for

the rest of the world; it’s an ideal location for learning about

the differences between health care in the U.S. versus other

countries. Carole South–Winter, Ph.D., assistant professor

of health services administration in the Beacom School

of Business, was instrumental in making this opportunity

possible for students.

“I started the day President Obama announced the

sanctions were lifted,” said South–Winter, referring to the

United States embargo against Cuba that was in effect from

1960 to 2015. “I created the course, recruited students and

taught the course before we departed and while we were

in Cuba.”

The course, entitled Health Services Administration

Abroad, covers the formation and operation of public health

policies. Having traveled internationally for past positions,

South–Winter was brought to the business school to

incorporate a more global aspect; she led a trip to Germany,

Switzerland and France in May 2015 and is currently planning

another trip to Ghana for May 2016.

From Jan. 2–11, though, 13 USD individuals experienced

one of the first educational exchanges between the United

States and its island neighbor in more than 50 years. The

professor and 12 students, accompanied by a bus driver and

tour guide/interpreter, explored Havana and the surrounding

area. There they experienced the inner workings of hospital

and clinical procedures such as polyclinics (community–based

clinics that serve catchment areas of 30,000–60,000 people)

and patient–centered care.

Elise Albers, who graduated with an MBA from the health

services administration program in December 2015, went

along to audit the trip.

“The trip was a once–in–a–lifetime experience to study a

developing country with an industrialized health care system,”

she said. “I was able to see firsthand that health does not equal

wealth; Cuba created a world–class health care system even

with the embargo in place.”

Albers and the rest of the group started each day at

approximately 8:30 a.m. and began learning immediately;

though they only observed the health care administration,

the students knew that what they were seeing was unlike any

classroom lecture.

“I learned more in one week than I previously learned in

semester–long courses,” Albers said. “What I enjoyed most,

though, was that the Cubans we interacted with were just as

interested in learning from us as we were in learning from

them. It convinced me that people–to–people education is the

most beneficial way to learn about other cultures.”

The expedition included some of the most iconic aspects

of Cuban culture ranging from street graffiti to a tour of Finca

Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s home–turned–museum. The group

also visited Havana’s Taquechel Pharmacy Museum and other

health care facilities requested by South–Winter, based on her

experience and research.

“I always enjoy being part of student growth both

academically and personally, and watching their perspectives

widen,” said the professor. “The concept of universality and

cultural acceptance transforms them daily and for many years

to come.”

South–Winter will be using personal global health care

experiences such as this for her curriculum and to organize

future study abroad trips; so far, destinations include Italy,

Australia, Ghana and a return trip to Cuba. Her previous work

in health care includes positions as program director for one

of the largest and highest ranked nuclear medicine technology

programs in the U.S.; interim director of education for the

Association of Healthcare Radiology Administrators; executive

director for Reclaiming Youth International.

Health Services Students

Experience Health Care in Cuba