Physician MBAs in Cuba: Greg Mishkel, MD, MBA’17

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Day 1. Saturday

While the US eagerly anticipates the Oscars and LaLa Land, we have landed in Havana, which feels more like Lada land, a veritable time warp.

From the moment you touch down, the smell of fresh cigar tobacco envelopes you, a very unaccustomed sensation for an American used to sanitized air. The immigration documents are quaint in an authoritarian type way, asking if you are bringing walkie talkies or pornography into the country (no on both counts).

From the parking lot to the drive along the highway to the hotel, you are reminded of the revolutionary fervor and the embargo that still exists.

Everything seems old and faded and smells slightly musty. That being said, the vibe is young and vibrant.

Even acknowledging the profound political differences, one has to wonder why we continue a 60 year old embargo on such a small country. All things considered, it seems like we have bigger fish to fry, when it comes to enemies of the state.

Day Two: Sunday

I woke up after a restful night and had what I call my “embargo coffee” steaming hot poured into a plastic cup. 

It’s too physically hot to handle – Why? Because apparently the embargo prevents them [Cuba] from getting regular paper thermos cups. Ingeniously, they create insulation with a paper napkin and place it inside a second cup, all the while muttering under their breath "expletive deleted embargo."

After I have my embargo coffee, we head to lectures.

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Slide summarizes Havana via historical review and where it's going by urban planner Miguel Coyula.

This slide to the right summarizes a brilliant historical review and where Havana is going by urban planner Miguel Coyula. It is objective and fair minded, showing significant issues for Havana moving forward as they try to find decent housing for all, with very little market incentives to restore housing stock that may sit empty for years.

We also heard from Surgeon de Marcelino Feal. He talked about a strong, integrated healthcare system. He also explained that state wages for MDs are impoverishing. The most interesting statement was that he wished Cuba had malpractice because when a patient is injured or dies the MD can be found criminally negligent rather than civil.

In the afternoon, we toured different types of housing stock in old Havana. Click through the slides below to see examples of good and bad housing stock.

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From dilapidated to deserted. The building above was left idle to rot, reclaimed by native vegetation, yet with other buildings next door to it containing tenants. No one knows what the state will do with this building. There are no property rights, so no individual initiative to do anything.
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An example of good housing stock.
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This is an example of not so good tenement. Haphazard wiring and folks with 4 or 5 people living in 20x20 rooms.

Day Five: Wednesday

It was a beautiful sunny Wednesday. One photo below shows a view of a hotel from the balcony of an artist’s apartment /gallery. We learned from artist Edel Bordon Mirabel. He had some beautiful work, but no bargains to be hand. Of course, no day is complete without some political history, so before lunch we stopped by Revolutionary Square. Fortunately no lectures!