Gennadiy Fuzaylov, MD, grounds his care philosophy in a core ethical and moral tenet from Judaism, drawing from the Talmudic teaching on the sanctity of saving a life. He firmly believes, "If you're saving one life, you are saving the whole world." This principle serves as his guiding beacon in the field of medicine.

Dr. Fuzaylov hails from a large family of physicians. His father served as the dean of a medical school, his mother was a practitioner, and all three of his siblings are currently practicing medicine in the United States. Originally from Uzbekistan, he and his family emigrated to the U.S. as refugees when he was in his mid-20s—the result of the mass exodus occurring in the Soviet Union at the time.

Since then, Dr. Fuzaylov has solidified his position as a global leader in providing compassionate medical care. In addition to his day job as a pediatric anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, he leads a nonprofit, Doctors Collaborating To Help Children, that delivers transformative burn care to children around the world.

It’s a special feeling to provide a voice to someone in need.

Gennadiy Fuzaylov, MD
Massachusetts General Hospital

Today, his volunteer efforts in global health are dedicated to serving children in Ukraine. Since 2010, he has collaborated with a team of clinicians, including surgeons, residents, fellows, and mental health professionals, to travel to Ukraine and provide care in partnership with the country's own health care providers—an effort that has led to him being honored with the Order of Merit 2nd degree and the Order of Merit 3rd degree by Ukraine.

Below, Dr. Fuzaylov discusses what inspires his commitment to providing care to children in need, both locally and internationally.

Why did you choose to specialize in pediatric care?

I always knew I wanted to take care of children. In my pediatric intensive care training, I experienced what it was like to have more substantial and long-term engagement with pediatric patients. This is also when I decided to specialize in anesthesia, as it’s a specialty that provides the same level of engagement and chemistry in terms of critical care. The difference between anesthesia and intensive care is mainly that anesthesia involves delivering critical care in an operating room, while intensive care takes place in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Essentially, I like to be in a position of being able to advocate for someone who is not able to verbalize their sickness and needs. It’s a special feeling to provide a voice to someone in need.

Why did you choose Mass General?

At the time, I was doing research on sepsis and lymphatic system. Warren Zapol, MD, interviewed me for the role at Mass General, and my motivation for coming here at the time was to continue this research and work in pediatric anesthesia. This place is living history, not to mention the people you get to call colleagues. It gave me everything I was looking for in a workplace.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presents Dr. Fuzaylov with the Order of Merit 2nd degree
On September 15, 2023, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presented Dr. Fuzaylov with the Order of Merit 2nd degree in recognition of the vital care and support he and his team provide to Ukrainian children and its hospitals during times of conflict.

How did you launch your mission work?

In 2005, a young girl was brought from the Ukraine to Shriner’s Burn Institute to be treated for severe burns. She was injured while saving her sister from a fire, and the Ukrainian president enabled her passage to Boston for care. Dr. Zapol asked me to assist, as I was the only attending who could speak Russian. This experience led to the transport of another patient and then another.

Since that initial patient, we have brought close to 80 kids to Boston from Ukraine to treat their burns. After some time, we decided to also go to Ukraine to provide care for children there.

Daniel Driscoll, MD, a plastic surgeon at Mass General, and I went to Kiev in 2010 to learn about how we could help. From there, I launched the nonprofit, Doctors Collaborating to Help Children. It's since become a multifaceted program to improve burn care in Ukraine through educating heath care providers, research, patient care, and prevention. Before the war, we traveled there every year to provide care.

Tell me more about your nonprofit and the diversity of team members who travel to Ukraine alongside you.

My nonprofit aims to improve care for children with burn injuries around the world through medical education and training. For a little over 10 years, we have focused on annual trips to Ukraine to provide free reconstruction and plastic surgeries for kids. We chose Ukraine because it has the infrastructure to provide complex care. However, the country overall lacks access to the medical education and training needed to provide this care. Because of this, children who have suffered burn injuries often do not receive necessary medical treatment.

It’s an incredibly supportive team of many clinicians from around the country—including several from Mass General, such as Branko Bojovic, MD and Dr. Driscoll, plastic surgeons; Justin Knittel, MD, and Jeremy Mountjoy, MD, resident alumni; and Christopher Bean, MD and Eric Wenzinger, MD, current residents. Outside of Mass General, Shawn Diamond, MD, from Texas Tech, Brian Kelley, MD, from the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical Center, and David Brown, MD, from the University of Michigan have played a huge role.

It’s an outpouring of support from people that makes it happen. I would not be able to do it by myself.

How has your mission work in Ukraine changed since February 2022?

I believe it’s unethical to use a country’s resources to provide elective care while the country is in crisis. So, in 2023, we decided to partner with a Polish hospital to deliver care to Ukrainian children. There were many logistical challenges with this mission. First, it’s difficult for patients to travel to Poland from Ukraine right now. Second, we were the first U.S. physicians to practice medicine on Polish land, and we had to seek special permission in order to do so.

Throughout the experience, I questioned if it was worth it. It is. Whenever we go on a mission trip to Ukraine, we are seeing the same patients. They have known me for decades, and we have developed a long and trusting relationship. When patients trust us, we can make a difference.

We're planning to go back to Poland in 2024 to treat Ukrainian patients. The local Polish community and mayor has provided so much support and a variety of activities to care for the patients. It has been a unique and impressive experience.

It sounds like it makes a huge difference for the patients to be able to count on seeing you every year.

I’ll tell you a story: It's customary for us to check in on the patients after surgery. However, one day, we deliberately skipped visiting a child's room, as she was in good health and prepared for discharge. Later, as I passed by her room, I noticed her in tears. When I asked her why she was upset, she confided that she felt sad because I hadn't come to offer her a hug.

After that, I told my team that we need to go to each room and give a hug to every patient that wants one. This is treatment. This is what we do.