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Visiting Ukrainian Doctors to Discuss Country’s Health Care Needs During April 24 Panel Discussion

April 17, 2023
by Colin Poitras

A group of doctors working near the front lines in Ukraine will discuss their experiences and health care needs in the war-torn region during a special panel discussion on April 24 in the Yale School of Public Health’s Winslow Auditorium. The hour-long event starts at noon and is open to the public. The Winslow Auditorium is located in the lower-level of the Laboratory for Epidemiology and Public Health (LEPH) building at 60 College St., New Haven.

The six doctors are currently receiving advanced training at Yale as part of a program organized by Doctors United for Ukraine (DU4U), a non-profit incorporation of Yale School of Medicine (YSM) and Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) faculty and staff that formed about a year ago to support Ukrainian doctors and health care organizations during the Russian war.

The visiting group is comprised of four anesthesiologists and intensive care doctors and two specialists in obstetrics and gynecology. The doctors all work in facilities close to the front lines in Ukraine or in regions that have been the target of Russian bombardment including Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dnipro, and Zaporizhzhia.

The visit and training were made possible through the support of Yale’s MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, as well as training contributions from YSM and YSPH.

There wasn’t much tailored for the Ukrainian physicians on the front lines, so we created this organization to help give the doctors what they need, and to do so quickly and with precision.

Dr. Andrey Zinchuk, vice-president of Doctors United for Ukraine

To date, Doctors United for Ukraine has provided over $1 million in targeted resources to medical and mental health providers in Ukraine. Those donations include critical care supplies such as kidney therapy fluids, blood filtration systems, ventilators, defibrillators, and surgical tools. A Yale psychologist – Ilan Harpaz-Rotem, a professor of psychology and psychiatry – and Yale psychiatrist – Dr. Shelley Amen – recently flew to Poland to provide training in treating post-traumatic stress disorder to about 40 mental health providers from Ukraine. Other provisions have supported women and infant health through donations of medical supplies to prevent early delivery, stop severe bleeding and help infants breathe on their own.

Dr. Andrey Zinchuk, vice-president of Doctors United for Ukraine and an assistant professor of medicine (pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine) at the Yale School of Medicine, said DU4U was formed to address an urgent need.

“There were a lot of people donating money and things like clothing and diapers, and all of those things were really helpful to Ukrainian refugees,” Zinchuk said. “But early on, there wasn’t much tailored for the Ukrainian physicians on the front lines, so we created this organization to help give the doctors what they need, and to do so quickly and with precision.”

The co-presidents of DU4U are Associate Professor of Psychiatry Irina Esterlis, and Dr. Alla Vash-Margita, MD, associate professor and chief of the division of pediatric and adolescent gynecology at YSM.

Dr. Sten Vermund, a Yale pediatrician and the Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Public Health is on the board of DU4U. It is anticipated that as the organization grows it will create opportunities for public health students to apply their skills in such areas as epidemiology, chronic diseases, and infection control.

The Ukrainian doctors are about two weeks into a one-month visit to Yale. They are receiving training in such things as pain control, infection control, localized anesthesia, and transplant surgery and care.

“Ukraine is pivoting to doing more kidney and liver transplants to help manage chronic diseases,” Zinchuk said. “They used to manage these cases with dialysis centers but many of those centers are now destroyed.”

The doctors are expected to share their personal experiences of working near the frontlines during the panel discussion.

“All physicians and health care providers are healers and I suspect want to help those suffering in Ukraine,” Zinchuk said. “But the question is what can we do? I suspect the visiting doctors will tell us ways we can contribute. We also hope to hear what it is like for them. How do they deal with providing care under such conditions? Many of these doctors have families and children. They are away from their families and colleagues that are in the conflict zone. I think knowing more about what these doctors are going through will not only be of interest to the general public but also to the physicians here. We all want to contribute in some way.”

Individuals interested in supporting Doctors United for Ukraine can find more information on the organization’s website.

Submitted by Colin Poitras on April 17, 2023