For Gennadiy Fuzaylov, MD, anesthesiologist at Mass General for Children, taking a vacation isn’t about relaxing on white sand beaches or skiing on snowy slopes. Instead, Fuzaylov travels to Lviv, Ukraine every September to support pediatric burn rehabilitation efforts by working with a local medical center, Medicover, in support of Doctor’s Collaborating to Help Children (DCTOHC), a non-profit organization he founded in March 2009. Fuzaylov leads a group to Ukraine on a mission to treat children with debilitating burn injuries, while providing educational lectures to their international counterparts to improve patient care and outcomes.

The team – comprised of Fuzaylov; Daniel Driscoll, MD; Branko Bojovic, MD; and Jeremi Mountjoy, MD, all of the MGH and Shriner’s Hospital for Children; David Brown, MD, of the University of Michigan; Justin Knittel, MD, of Washington University; and Deborah Callahan, RN, of Shriner’s – collaborate to treat complex and severe burns that medical facilities in the Ukraine cannot properly manage due to limited resources and outdated equipment and facilities. Since DCTOHC was established, the team has cared for 786 patients and performed 175 life-changing procedures. Patients who require surgical procedures that are too complex to be performed in Ukraine are transferred to Shriner’s.

“We are able to share our collective experience and expertise with our colleagues in the Ukraine,” says Fuzaylov.

Burn injuries – considered a forgotten public health crisis by the World Health Organization – cause 180,000 deaths annually. The vast majority of those injuries occur in low- and middle-income countries like the Ukraine. More than 40,000 individuals are burned accidentally in the country each year – 10,500 of which are children.

“The best treatment for burns is prevention,” says Fuzaylov. “So in addition to treating patients and teaching fellow physicians, we’re making every effort to educate the public on simple adjustments they can make to protect their families.”

A study he and colleagues conducted showed that parents, child care providers and health care professionals lack knowledge in burn prevention and first aid. “The majority of burns we treat are caused by scalding water in the kitchen and bathroom,” says Fuzaylov. “Simple solutions such as turning a pot handle out of reach or testing water temperature may seem like common sense, but they are educationally engrained in our culture. We’re trying to spread that awareness where education has sorely lacked.”

DCTOHC has developed Ukrainian television commercials and radio advertisements in an effort increase burn prevention techniques in the home. “We have already seen changes in practices and improvement in burn injury prevention,” says Bojovic, “and also in the manner, efficiency and speed with which definitive care is being delivered.”

During their 2017 trip, Fuzaylov and his team evaluated 149 new potential patients, guided treatment plan development for cases straightforward enough for treatment in Ukraine and began the difficult planning process to bring patients to the United States.

“Each trip provides our group a collective feeling of accomplishment and humanitarianism,” says Fuzaylov. “We know we’re bettering the lives of pediatric patients through all our efforts – surgery, education and research. I could never vacation on a tropical island knowing instead what an impact I could be making for needy children in Ukraine.” 

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