When USD professor Carole South-Winter heard last winter that the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba could soon be on the mend, she immediately envisioned traveling to the island to explore a highly successful aspect of its society despite decades of crippling isolation – its healthcare system.
“We can finally go,” South-Winter said, to look at the “innovative, inexpensive healthcare” system of Cuba.
She will go with about 14 USD students for a week starting Jan. 3.
Originally, South-Winter hoped their journey would be the first of its kind from South Dakota, but she’s since discovered that SDSU and Augustana University have already made the trip, though both were coordinated through their Spanish programs, she said.
“We’re the first to focus on culture and healthcare,” South-Winter said.
Most students going on the trip are studying Health Services Administration or business, she added.
The group plans to explore a number of parts of Cuban society, including healthcare, dentistry, education and elder care.
They will also be learning about the culture of Cuba and will be visiting the Plaza de la Revolucion, the historic Colon Cemetery, the 16th century fortress of Morro-Cabana, the artistically significant area of Havana known as “Callejon de Hamel” and the beaches of Varadero.
In addition to seeing historical sights, the group will be enjoying traditional Cuban drinks, food, music and dancing.
During their exploration of Cuba’s medical community, they will tour a care center for sexually transmitted diseases, the Latin American School of Medicine and a maternity waiting home, in addition to several other places.
The group will also be speaking with Cuban physicians about the vital importance of folk remedies to the people of the island.
Senior Elise Albers, an MBA student, is one student going on the trip.
“(It’s a) really exciting opportunity, being among the first Americans to travel to Cuba to study their healthcare system,” she said.
Albers said she knew it was a “no-brainer” to go when presented with the opportunity earlier in the semester.
“Many people aren’t aware Cuba has such a successful healthcare system,” Albers said.
The trip will cost each student roughly $3,800, including meals and transportation, South-Winter said. The group will fly from Sioux Falls to Miami, then on to Havana.
Unfortunately for anyone who isn’t already on the list to go, South-Winter said it’s too late for any more students to join, as the planning process takes a considerable amount of time.
Senior Health Services Administration major Matt Betsworth said he and his friends have been talking about the trip since last semester.
“I know we’re all pretty excited,” he said.
Like professor South-Winter, Betsworth said he was immediately interested in the opportunity to travel to Cuba.
“When I first heard the news, I thought that it would be amazing to travel there,” he said.
For South-Winter, the enthusiasm is mutual.
“I think it’s going to be pretty exciting,” she said.