Connecting with Cuba

When U.S. relations were normalized with Cuba more than three years ago, Northwestern worked with nonprofits and governmental agencies to try to open those doors even further. Since then, despite a shifting political climate, the university has continued to foster academic collaborations with Cuba by sending researchers to the country and by forging a partnership with a Cuban university.

In December, Northwestern signed an official memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the University of Havana Manuel Fajardo School of Medicine, a signal of intent to promote potential collaborations and research exchanges between the two institutions.

“We have a lot of interest from faculty and students who would like to conduct research or study in Cuba,” said Kim Rapp, assistant vice president for international relations at Northwestern. “Northwestern has had a presence in Cuba for a few years, and we’d like to stay connected and work with partners there.”

In 2017, Northwestern began exploring expanded partnerships in Cuba after receiving a grant from Partners of the Americas to enhance academic opportunities in the country. A particular emphasis was placed on forging collaborations related to medical education. 

In June of that year, a cohort of eight Northwestern faculty members and administrators traveled to the University of Havana to meet with potential collaborators at its medical school and related research institutions.

Northwestern researchers weren’t as familiar with the Cuban public health landscape, but they knew of its successes. The country’s infant mortality rate is 4.5 deaths per 1,000 infants, which is lower than the United States’ rate of 5.8, and the average life expectancy is 79 years, compared to the United States’ 78.7.

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