Summer 2016
Summer 2016

Essentials: Gary G. Gunderson, OD ’79

As an educator, Gary G. Gunderson, OD ’79, has traveled to many international meetings. He has brought his optometric insight to Germany, The Czech Republic, Spain, and Australia. Most recently, Dr. Gunderson visited Cuba with a presentation on keratoconus. As relations with the United States are only just beginning to normalize, many aspects of Cuba remain mysterious to Americans. Dr. Gunderson found, in his opinion, “one of the best health care systems in the world.”

Here are some essential takeaways about Cuba that Dr. Gunderson gleaned from his 2016 visit:


The State of Optometry

“Cuba has 2 optometry schools. 98% of optometrists there are women. Health care, including eye exams, is free to citizens. Cubans pay for materials such as spectacles, contact lenses, and solutions. For budget reasons, contact lenses are not encouraged. The cost of solution alone is 6 dollars, when the income of most Cubans is 20-25 dollars a month.”

Thanks, Obama.

“Recently, President Obama has made inroads to restore relations with Cuba. He was in Havana while I was there and I saw his motorcade. Some of buildings in Cuban cities are already being converted to hotels to house the expected increase in American tourism.”

Arroz con Frijoles

“A common dish in Cuba is rice and beans, which I enjoyed very much. Many of the recipes are guarded family secrets- the same way chili or barbeque recipes are cherished in the United States.”

The Perfect Pairing

“It is easy to see that rum and cigars are major parts of the Cuban economy. Sugar cane and tobacco are grown extensively. The government owns most restaurants, so prices are fixed on these goods with little or no competition.”

Veggie Tales

“Food is sold from small storefronts as parts of people’s homes, or from carts on the street that can be moved from place to place. There is no refrigeration, sanitation control, or packaging- just a friendly ‘Buenos días’ and ‘How may I help you today?’”

How do I get there?

“Public transportation for the average Cuban is free outside cities. Government-provided trucks and open-air buses pick people up. There is generally no seating and never any air conditioning. In the cities, there are private motorcycles, bicycles, buggies, and taxis. Prices are negotiated; I noticed they vary between locals and tourists.”


“Wi-Fi is currently being installed in the major city squares in Havana, but devices and service are beyond the means of most Cuban citizens. Music and dance are favorite forms of entertainment. ‘Guantanamera’ is a well-known, patriotic Cuban song. I heard people singing it all the time!”

The Santa Claus of Cars

Summer2016-essentials-santaclaus“I have been an avid car enthusiast for most of my life. When Fidel Castro rose to power in 1969, U.S. relations with Cuba were cut off. American-manufactured cars stopped coming. Now, cars from 1958 or earlier line Cuban streets like in a parade or old movie. I decided to bring parts from my 1958 Chevy Impala. I distributed them to car owners as I walked the streets of Havana. One gentleman shook my hand and said,
‘God Bless America.’”

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