When Dr. Tania Huedo-Medina, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics, Director of the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy’s (InCHIP) Biostatistics Core, and Director of the forthcoming InCHIP center for Ibero-American health, approached the University of Connecticut’s Vice President for Global Affairs Dr. Daniel Weiner and InCHIP Director Dr. Jeffrey Fisher with her idea to launch a health science research initiative in Cuba, she was not sure whether her idea would meet with their approval or support. Enter Dr. Weiner’s long-standing interest and history of work in Cuba, Dr. Fisher’s interest in global health research and InCHIP’s significant expertise in this area, and President Obama’s timely efforts to peel back the United States’ economic embargo on Cuba, and Huedo-Medina has a recipe for success.
Huedo-Medina, Weiner and Fisher know that an initiative in Cuba, a nation that has been mostly isolated from the United States since before the Cuban Revolution, requires the utmost patience to plan. Diplomatic and financial challenges related to the economic embargo, and the troubled history of US-Cuba relations, produce a hindrance to seamless academic exchanges with this Latin American country. Weiner’s past cultural work in Cuba and Huedo-Medina’s Spanish heritage, knowledge of Cuban history and culture, and ability to speak the language have positioned the University to be uniquely successful in endeavors in Cuba.
“When other universities have visited Cuba, they soon realize that negotiations are difficult and have to go through many layers in both countries. Some US universities have given up, and other applications have not been prioritized by Cuban organizations when granting memoranda of understanding. We learned through our visits how everything is complicated, requires the development of mutual trust, a strong network of contacts, and the ability to navigate these circumstances,” said Huedo-Medina.