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Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade receives WHO Dr. LEE Jong-Wook Memorial Prize for Public Health

Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade receives WHO Dr. LEE Jong-Wook Memorial Prize for Public Health


May 26, 2017 – Today, at an awards ceremony at the 70th World Health Assembly of the WHO, Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Team of Medical Specialists in Disasters & Epidemics received the Dr. LEE Jong-Wook Memorial Prize for Public Health. Awarded annually, the Prize honors individuals, organizations, and institutions whose contributions to public health extend far beyond the normal call of duty. Dr. Felix Baez, a Cuban trained doctor of internal medicine, attended the ceremony and received the prize on behalf of the brigade.

The Henry Reeve Team was formed by Cuba’s President Fidel Castro in September 2005, in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. At the time, President Castro made an unconditional offer to send the team – comprised of 1,586 medical professionals, including physicians and nurses with extensive experience in disaster response – to the Gulf States. However, the Bush administration rejected the offer, turning away what turned out to be critical support for post-Katrina relief efforts.

Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda, Minister of Health of Cuba, and Dr Felix Baez, representative of the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade [Image courtesy of the WHO]

Brigade members providing medical care for a Haitian woman giving birth.

Named in honor of a Brooklyn-born US hero who rose to the rank of Brigadier General in Cuba’s fight for independence from Spain, the Henry Reeve Team members pledge to serve wherever they are needed. Since 2005, over 7,000 of these health professionals have volunteered in 19 countries worldwide – including Bolivia, Chile, China, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal, and Pakistan. The Henry Reeve Team carried out a significant mission during the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa, when over 250 health professionals risked their lives to provide care in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. They are currently providing care in the flood-stricken Piura region of Peru.

Henry Reeve members are required to speak at least two languages, and receive special training in disaster and epidemic response. MEDICC Review has reported extensively on the Henry Reeve Team’s service in Pakistan and Haiti, where the journal’s senior editor Conner Gorry was on site to cover their post-earthquake emergency response.

“For the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade, the award of the Dr LEE Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health is an invaluable recognition of our work and an incentive to continue to extend our solidarity and assistance to all people facing emergencies or natural disasters.”

– Dr. Felix Baez