University of Medical Sciences

Dr. María Elena Mawad, the rector of the Doctor Zoilo Marinello University of Medical Sciences, received us in her office minutes after the National Directorate of Medical Teaching completed the exhaustive review that left the institution ready to continue the school year.

Dr. María Elena Mawad, rector of the Doctor Zoilo Marinello University of Medical SciencesLas Tunas, Cuba.- She didn't try to hide her satisfaction. It is the result of many people, of a summer that has not been enjoyable for their work team and, above all, of daring and innovative planning, always thinking that it is not possible to sacrifice the quality of the teaching process.

"Our students return to the classrooms on September 1 to finish the 2019-2020 academic year and we have taken all measures to guarantee their safety in the presence of the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus."

She then explains about sodium hypochlorite, the obligation to use a mask, the same for students as for teachers and support staff. She details the changes in daily routines, how the dining room courts have a protocol with which they will be demanding and even markings on the floor so that everyone knows where to stand and comply with physical distancing.

She insists that discipline will be decisive in the process. "The university guarantees, for example, the cleanliness of surfaces and premises, but each student has to be committed to washing their hands, with their personal care."

She knows that among the main concerns of parents and teachers is the reduction that this health situation requires of the dorms, in which several bunk beds have been removed to avoid overcrowding. Fewer students will now be located at the students' dorms and part of the teaching is transferred to hospitals and polyclinics in the municipalities. “And we are prepared,” she reaffirms, “a lot of work has been done for that.

“Some subjects already closed when the community research arrived and with extra-class work. All this is duly closed and now those that do need presence are resumed so that the student, a future health professional, can complete an academic year and move on to the next higher level.

“This takes a strong effort from the entire pedagogical group. We did a very intense table work, the professors from the municipalities were brought here, to the University, to receive the methodological preparations from the teaching staff.

“An analysis was made of those subjects or rotations of academic years of different careers that could have, when returning to classes, a continuity in the municipalities of origin of the students.

“This analysis started from taking into account, fundamentally, the particular address of each student. As expected, those who live in a municipality that do not guarantee, due to their private address, arriving early and making efficient use of the time dedicated to training at the headquarters of that municipality, will stay in our student residence, but they will be the less and after a thorough assessment.

"We exhaustively review that if within any rotation there is something that cannot be overcome in the municipality, the conditions will be given so that the student, at the time it corresponds, comes to Las Tunas, stays in rooms of the student residence that we have left for that and they can make the sub-rotation in the provincial hospitals.

“I give the example of Manatí, the gynecological and obstetric rotation, which is from the fourth year of the Medicine career, can be done there, except for the sub-rotation of childbirth and postpartum care. They will come to do it to 'Guevara'."

I listen to her defend the issue with the knowledge of the professional who has traveled each place where her students will be. She maintains the thesis that some of these novel aspects are here to stay. It is the same criterion that I have heard from other seasoned teachers of Higher Education.

“All this also strengthens the identity of the student with the municipality that those who saw them grow; the place where they will serve the population. In addition, it has been well received both by the municipal directors and by the teaching staff of each of those territories and the government authorities."

Some majors were protected in that stop that the pandemic imposed. I know that there are students who do begin their first year in Medical Sciences this September 1st.

“We have two years of the Bachelor of Nursing majors that begin the 2020-2021 academic year, because they managed to finish the previous one. It was something that was foreseen for the importance of this human resource that every day gains more importance and need. While others were investigating, these students remained in a battle line, but in hospitals, treating patients and with their educational teaching process without any difficulty.

“It also begins the third year for the 30 decentralized students from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) that we receive. The vast majority are already with us. They will do so with a subject that only foreigners give, which is called Disaster Medicine, because we teach foreign scholarship holders to face catastrophic situations in their countries of origin.
"Likewise, the 232 young people from the province who are deferred from the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) begin the course. They have just left the Military Service, there they obtained their scholarships and we are going to give them a course called Premedical Course. They are going to enroll in the medical course. "
I know that the University has an enrollment that exceeds six thousand students. And in graduate school there are around 1,300. This gear that they are now putting into operation demands a lot from everyone.
“It is a distance training system that revolutionizes Cuban Higher Education. The world moves through distance education and there are elements that we have incorporated now that we are going to maintain, because it is important that young people adjust to their time. They have to learn to study systematically and there will be fewer and fewer exams. The student has to be good today, tomorrow and always, and not prepare for a practical theoretical exam at any given time.
"The educational materials that we will provide through the different ways that the school has (and it is growing in this area of knowledge) are being made and will be increased, so that the student can access that information, prepare for all teaching tasks that they come to it and be able to conclude subjects that way.

"But quiet. What takes presence, so we will comply. What the physical examination of a patient takes will have it, as well as for a diagnosis it is necessary to interrogate, inspect, palpate, auscultate and percuss.
The student simply has to learn that by questioning, palpating, hammering and listening. Because the clinical method has several components that will never lose their validity."