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The Caribbean Division of AAAS has announced that Dr. Sergio Jorge Pastrana will be the keynote speaker at its annual conference on 12 September at the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus.
Pastrana is the Executive Director and Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba and has been a key figure in many science-related partnerships between Cuba and other countries including the United States. His keynote address will be on "Historical Notes on the Academy of Sciences of Cuba and Its Role in International Scientific Collaboration."
"The visit of a senior Cuban official to our island will have positive implications for the development of scientific collaborations between Cuba and Puerto Rico," said Carlos A. Torres Ramos, assistant professor in the department of physiology and biophysics at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine and president of the AAAS Caribbean Division.
Established in 1861, the Academy of Sciences of Cuba was the first association of its kind in the New World. Its early members included Nicolás José Gutiérrez, the physician who introduced anesthesia in Cuba, Felipe Poey y Aloy, Latin America's most famous ichthyologist at the time, and the renowned physician and scientist, Carlos Finlay, who first determined that yellow fever was spread by mosquitoes.
Two centuries later, following the Cuban Revolution, the country experienced a period of intense capacity-building in education, science and medicine. Today, Cuba's biotechnology industry exports a number of important vaccines and other biomedical technologies, and both infant mortality rates and average lifespan are roughly comparable to those in the United States.
The Academy of Sciences of Cuba and AAAS have long shared multiple interests in promoting scientific collaboration and science diplomacy. Most recently, Pastrana also visited AAAS headquarters for a April 2015 conference on science diplomacy. The previous year, the Academy hosted a AAAS-led delegation to Havana, resulting in a joint agreement to foster joint cooperation in biomedical research.
Over 150 scientists, educators, and students are expected to attend the day-long annual meeting of the AAAS' Caribbean Division, which will also include three concurrent sessions on themes of science education and the development of sustainability. The conference is open to the public and and requires no registration fee. Scientists in all disciplines, science teachers of all levels, students of all ages, and the community at large are encouraged to participate.
Two awards will be also presented: The Lucy Gaspar Award for Excellence in Science Education to a K-12 science teacher and the Robert I. Larus Award for Excellence in Scientific Research to a graduate student.
The AAAS Caribbean Division was founded in 1985 to create a hub for AAAS members in all of the islands and countries in the Caribbean region, from Venezuela, up through the Dominican Republic and Haiti, to Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. Most of the division's members live in the Caribbean region, but anyone who is a member of AAAS can join.
AAAS has two other regional divisions: the Pacific Division, with a charter dating to 1914, and the Arctic Division, founded in 1951. All AAAS members in good standing, and who reside or work within the specified boundaries of a regional division, are automatically included as members of that division.