Cuba is not something many Americans do. Dr. Sharyn Janes of The
University of Southern Mississippi's School of Nursing never gets
tired of the trip.
At least once
a year she visits, and even when she's not on a mission for educating
students, Janes still makes the journey. Every time she goes, she
finds something else to take back with her, whether it's something
someone says or something someone does or something someone gives
For her, every
trip is the trip of a lifetime, and in May she'll once again experience
the thrill of leaving Mississippi and feeling the wheels of an airplane
touching the forbidden grounds of a small island so far south, yet
so close to home.
will be my 10th trip in the last seven years," Janes, director
of the School of Nursing, said of the scheduled May 20-30 trip with
21 students, three teaching professors and two researchers. The
group will tour Cuba's health care system, which has been called
a model structure.
Health Organization has said that the way to meet the health care
needs of the world's population is through communities, involving
primary health care through prevention," said Janes, "and
Cuba is the model for the world because it is prevention-based and
the focus is on community, so every community member has health
a physician and nurse team live in each community and see patients
at the local clinic and at the patients' homes. Whenever more care
is needed, the patient is sent to an urgent-care type of clinic,
and then on to a hospital, if necessary.
doesn't have the technology we have but it has the same health care
statistics because of its focus on prevention," Janes explained.
"They might have one mammogram machine, so they take it to
each community, which has been notified of its arrival. The people
line up for the free scan."
All of this
began back in 1997, when a few nursing faculty members went along
with the economic development class that visited Cuba. Janes first
brought students in 1998 and she made many contacts and agreements
with nurses, working on relationships.
(students) who do go (on the trip to Cuba) come back totally changed,"
Janes said. "Since America has no diplomatic relationship with
Cuba, Americans don't know what Cuba is like, or what Cubans are
like. (Cubans) are warm, welcoming, beautiful, happy people who
say, 'Tell (American) people we are good people.' They have the
wildest sense of humor and welcome the students with hugs and kisses.
They don't shake hands professionally; they kiss each other on the
cheeks and make a big 'to do' about it."
are required to create journals about their experiences and the
most profound events they experience involve disabled children and
a home for disabled children, mostly with Down Syndrome, who participate
in Special Olympics. The children dress up in costumes and dance
for us and the students are very impressed with that. We tour the
grounds where the children make things for sale and farm their own
place to visit is the AIDS sanitarium. "Americans' impression
of a sanitarium is of someone being 'locked away,'" Janes said.
"Students get to the sanitarium in Cuba and see that the patients
are taught to care for themselves and they are surrounded with beautiful
grounds with a swimming area with its own beach." The sanitarium,
indeed, is not something to be feared in Cuba. Many have tried to
be admitted into it based on the lifestyle the patients lead, since,
as anywhere, parts of Havana include overcrowded slums.
she has worked closely with Daisy Berdayes, who was associate dean
and is now the dean of Julio Trigo Lopez School of Medical Sciences.
Berdayes is the first nurse ever to become a dean of any medical
sciences school in Cuba, where, by tradition, nurses and doctors
take classes together for the first three years before splitting
off into separate study.
has developed some close ties with nursing professionals in Cuba
that expand our international focus and create opportunities for
both faculty and our students," said the college's interim
dean, Dr. Joan Exline.
women she has talked to in the Cuban communities don't understand
why parents don't immunize. "They don't understand not immunizing.
'It protects (the) whole community,' they say to me," she said.
"They are baffled by some Americans' refusal to immunize."
To visit Cuba,
the university has a license from the U.S. Treasury Department for
legal travel. The group travels on academic visas through the Ministry
of Public Health in Cuba. Because no American airlines travel to
Cuba, the group must book flights to Cuba through Marazul Charter
Tours in New Jersey. The group flies from New Orleans to Cancun
on American Airlines, and then flies Mexicana Airlines to Havana.
"We have to use two separate travel agencies to get there,"
of Southern Mississippi School of Nursing is the only nursing school
in America that participates in a Cuban Studies Program. "There
are a lot of medical schools that participate, including Harvard,
but we are the only nursing school."
was on sabbatical, she helped the Higher Institute of Medical Sciences
begin its first master's degree program in nursing by teaching and
consulting in the program. Now officials want to start a doctoral
program for nurses, and they have asked Janes to be a consultant.
just graduated the first class of master's students," Janes
said with a grin. She wouldn't say what her next career step was
going to be, but it's easy to imagine her suitcase is already packed.