Friday's letters: Opportunities for medical advances with Cuba

Published January 5 2017
Updated January 5 2017


Bioscience opportunities abound

In this time of rapidly evolving changes in relations between the United States and Cuba, there are tremendous opportunities for business. And there may be no greater area of opportunity for Cuba-Tampa Bay relations than in bioscience and medicine.

Tampa Bay has one of the most sophisticated and advanced medical and bioscience communities in the nation. One way to strengthen the region's medical and biotech industry is to collaborate with Cuba. As a past board chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, I led several delegations to Cuba to discuss issues of importance to both sides, including transportation, culture, business and medicine. During those trips, I saw firsthand the many ways in which Cuba is advancing medical technology.

Researchers in Cuba have developed a promising lung cancer treatment and vaccine, known as CimaVax, that's been available to Cuban citizens since 2011. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's trip to Cuba in 2015 led to an agreement to bring CimaVax to the United States, and U.S. facilities are evaluating the treatment for use here.

Last year, Cuba also became the first country to receive World Health Organization validation that it had eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. The WHO director-general called the development "one of the greatest public health achievements possible."

But current restrictions are holding Cuba back from making even more medical progress. Because of the U.S. embargo against Cuba and other restrictions in this country and in Cuba, Cuban medical institutions are sometimes unable to get crucial equipment, parts and pharmaceuticals.

Since we're geographically close to Cuba, scientists and doctors from the Tampa Bay area could travel to Havana to meet with Cuban experts and work together on studies, research projects and other health advances. Residents, fellows and doctors from Cuba could travel here for classes, professional training and continuing education. And since Tampa Bay is a center for state-of-the-art medical care, we could also play host to patients from Cuba seeking specialized treatments.

Cuba is a country of over 11 million people. It's foolish to shut ourselves off to the many medical opportunities that exist. Let's start 2017 by fostering more engagement between the medical industry in Tampa Bay and Cuba by exchanging research, data and information. These partnerships are about treating people, curing diseases and overall public health. They are issues that should have no boundaries, geographic or political. We can't let politics stand in the way of medical progress.

Ronald A. Christaldi, Tampa

The writer was 2015 chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. He is a business lawyer with Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP.

Open carry

Guns only add to danger

The lives of Florida's children and teens are at risk if SB 140 passes. It is a dangerous, extreme bill that will lead to open carry on school and college campuses. It is sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota. Polls show that students, faculty and campus law enforcement overwhelmingly oppose guns on campus. When guns on campus was considered last session, the Florida State University police chief noted that it would make his officers' job considerably more challenging by forcing them to differentiate between "good guys" and "bad guys."

College life is all about young people under high pressure, and many take risks with drug and alcohol use. Easy access to guns only heightens these safety risks. There is no evidence to support gun lobby claims that guns protect students from crime. To the contrary, alcohol directly impairs judgment on whether to fire a gun.

We should be strengthening laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people — and stop school shootings before they happen. The only people carrying guns in our schools should be trained law enforcement and trained security guards.

Gemma Kay, Lutz

President-elect Trump

Daily digest on tweets

Whether we like it or not, the president-elect has redefined journalism. So you need to change your game to defeat his whack-a-mole tactics. Instead of chasing his tweets and retweets, how about a Page 2 chart that posts his "Tweets of the Day" on one side and concise, digestible analysis on the other. Some of us will still read the more in-depth articles, but most will only read the shortest of sound bites. It's a sad reality, but the game has truly changed.

Tony Macchia, Tampa

Seek scientific explanations | Jan. 2, letter

Searching for a purpose

The letter writer misreads Ross Douthat's recounting of the near-death experiences of professed atheists. Douthat never claims that these experiences are beyond scientific explanation. Rather, he describes how, when confronted with the unexplained, even the most hardened atheist may begin to question the conviction that God does not exist.

The sciences have a great deal to teach us about our material world and the universe in which it resides. Those disciplines, however, cannot explain the ultimate question: What is our purpose in this ever-expanding, beautiful, ordered and mysterious cosmos? For Douthat, and countless others around the world, the answer is found in "God's love for us" and in that "one specific history-altering experience: a divine incarnation, a baby crying beneath a pulsing star."

James De Furio, Tampa

Partnership in bloom | Jan. 2

Coral reproduction

Despite the fact it made me a bit queasy, I was encouraged to read that coral reproduction from banked coral "DNA" is proving to be doable thanks to recent local research. Still, I long for the days when "what happens on the sea floor stays on the sea floor." For the sake of decency, y'know.

Steve Douglas, St. Petersburg