The Oregonian (Salem)
April 12, 2004

Doctor Will Take Supplies to Cuba

The Associated Press

In coming months, a Salem plastic surgeon will round up drills, bone saws, chin implants, laptop computers, sutures and other items to help doctors in Cuba treat their patients with up-to-date equipment.

"The hospital conditions are pretty deplorable," said Dr. Gary Nishioka. "The doctors are pretty well-trained, but they have nothing to work with. It's like operating with knives and spoons."

Nishioka is returning to the island nation after a recent trip with about a dozen doctors and other medical professionals sponsored by Resources Education International, a humanitarian group. Although Nishioka has made trips with the group to Vietnam, this was the first trip he took with his wife, Linda, and 15-year-old son, Ryder. Nishioka met with doctors throughout Havana. Ryder visited local schools and took part in community projects that helped him meet a requirement at Blanchet Catholic High School. Linda discussed fluoridation programs with dentists. The weeklong trip included visits to three hospitals in which Nishioka demonstrated facial-reconstruction procedures. He also provided guidance about how best to improve medical conditions for Cubas estimated 23,000 doctors.

"The goal of the mission was to help Cuba build up their medical infrastructure," he said, "so they wont need our assistance anymore." Nishioka, who practices at Willamette Ear, Nose, Throat and Facial Plastic Surgery, will ask medical-equipment companies to donate items on his shopping list. He said that many suppliers have used equipment that they do not intend to sell. Nishioka might purchase some items himself. The trip to Cuba was one of few sanctioned by the United States each year. The Nishiokas had to obtain a special federal license. The amount of money they brought was restricted. The United States has maintained an economic embargo against Cuba since Fidel Castro rose to power in 1959. Nishioka said that he noticed differences in how younger and older generations regard their country's future. "The younger people are eager to move forward and normalize relations with the U.S.," he said. "Those in Cuba before the revolution would like to change, but they know if things change too quickly, it could be bad." Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.