Gillings School hosts delegation from Cuba

November 30, 2017

On Nov. 17, the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health welcomed First Secretary Miguel Fraga from the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba in Washington, D.C.

Cuban First Secretary Miguel Fraga, back right, visited UNC on Nov. 17. While at the Gillings School, he met with Julie MacMillan (front, in green), Dr. Clare Barrington (behind MacMillan) and Dr. Peggy Bentley (front, right), among others.

Cuban First Secretary Miguel Fraga (back, far right) visited UNC on Nov. 17. While at the Gillings School, he met with Julie MacMillan (front, in green), Dr. Clare Barrington (behind MacMillan) and Dr. Peggy Bentley (front, right), among others.

During the visit, Fraga met with faculty and staff members to learn about the Gillings School’s long-standing research initiatives in Cuba. Among those with whom he talked were Margaret (Peggy) Bentley, PhD, Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition,  associate dean for global health at the Gillings School and associate director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases (IGHID), and Clare Barrington, PhD, associate professor of health behavior at the Gillings School and Latin American projects director at the IGHID.

Fraga also discussed UNC’s engagement in Cuba with senior administrators in the Institute for the Study of the Americas (ISA), UNC Global, and the College of Arts and Sciences and delivered a presentation on U.S.-Cuba relations at the FedEx Global Education Center.

Fraga was appointed First Secretary at the embassy when diplomatic relations were reestablished between the U.S. and Cuba in 2015. Since 2006, he has worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the North American and U.S. divisions and the Office of the Minister, including three years at the Cuban embassy in Canada. He earned a bachelor’s degree in law from the University of Havana and a Master of Science in foreign relations from the Higher Institute of Foreign Relations Raúl Roa García.

Since his appointment, he has made many visits to universities and communities throughout the United States to engage in education and outreach. Cressie Thigpen, a former member of the UNC Board of Trustees who has organized trips to Cuba since 2015, arranged Fraga’s visit to UNC.

UNC public health faculty members have collaborated for more than 25 years with researchers at Cuba’s Pedro Kouri National Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK), currently focused on HIV prevention and treatment and cancer. Research collaborations and other relationships also exist at UNC with the University of Havana, the Centro Cultural Juan Marinello, the Fundación Fernando Ortiz, the Casa de Altos Estudios, the Academia de Historia and the Unión de Artistas y Escritores de Cuba. A partnership between the Biblioteca Nacional ‘José Martí’ in Havana and UNC’s Davis Library enables the libraries to fill gaps in their respective collections.

Since 2003, more than 100 UNC undergraduate students have studied at the University of Havana during the spring semester through the Study Abroad Office in the College of Arts and Sciences. During UNC’s 2017 spring break, 23 media and journalism students traveled to Havana to create a multimedia documentary website — “Cuba’s New Wave” — that explores the Cuban youth culture. Cuba also has been the subject of interest for graduate student research in areas such as anthropology, biology, history, law, medicine, political science, public health and Romance studies.

“We were honored to meet with the delegation in the Gillings School,” Bentley said. “Dr. Barrington and I will travel to Havana in early December to present at the 80th anniversary of Cuba’s Institute of Tropical Medicine. We will consider ourselves to be informal ambassadors from UNC and are honored to have been invited.”

A version of this article first appeared on the UNC Global website.


Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or