“Thank you for your service” is a phrase shared with U.S. service members. But Mass General’s Shannon Stuart, RN, a commissioned officer with the Air National Guard, says she is the one who feels the need to share her appreciation.
From the moment Russian Army launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, clinicians from across Mass General Brigham began doing what they do best: helping those in need. From shipping IV bags and insulin, to evacuating injured children or translating critical medical education materials into Ukrainian, Ukrainian-American physicians and their colleagues immediately stepped up to aid of the people of Ukraine.
“As soon as this event began on Feb. 24, it was like a switch,” said cardiac surgeon Serguei Melnitchouk, MD, co-director of the MGH Heart Valve Program. “We immediately started thinking of what we can do for Ukraine, Ukrainian patients, health care providers and hospitals in parallel of making sure our own families and friends were safe. Our family and friends are still in Ukraine, so this war is very close to our hearts. We are constantly checking news and finding ways to help.”
Serguei and his wife Nelya Melnitchouk, MD, a colorectal surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, are founders of the Global Medical Knowledge Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to providing open-source, evidenced-based practical educational materials written by experts in the field, translated into Ukrainian and Russian. Already in the past month and a half, their organization has translated the Advanced Trauma Life Support Manual and the Chemical/Biological/Radiological/Nuclear Manual into Ukrainian to share with health care providers, and it has created and shared educational videos, medical supplies and other humanitarian aid.
“We’re working to help physicians maintain the same care they’ve always provided in their daily lives, just figuring out how to do it in a time of war,” said Nelya. “Cancer, for example, is not going away. Cancer patients still require treatment. Oncology physicians in Ukraine still provide chemotherapy, despite sometimes maybe doing so in a hospital basement due to constant threat of bombing.”
Serguei and Nelya were part of an engaging discussion during an April 5 webinar, “Humanitarian and Health Care Crisis in Ukraine: Ukrainian American Physicians Discuss Efforts to Provide Urgent Medical Aid in a Time of War,” to share some of the many ways they – along with many of their colleagues – are helping the relief efforts.
Gennadiy Fuzaylov, MD, MGH pediatric anesthesiologist, shared his background of coming to the United States with his siblings and family as refugees last century. For the past 20 years he has called Mass General his home. Since Feb. 24, Fuzaylov has helped to send five shipments of supplies, teleconsults, Integra for injured people, and 16 water filter devices to regions where infrastructure was damaged. He said he also will be bringing 10 to 15 injured Ukrainian children to Shriners/MGH and other hospitals for treatment. “My background has inspired me to do this work,” he said. “But I want to emphasize again and again that these efforts are a combined effort of people and institutions, it would not be possible to do by myself.”
Nelya Melnitchouk, MD
We’re working to help physicians maintain the same care they’ve always provided in their daily lives, just figuring out how to do it in a time of war.
Colorectal surgeon, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
During the discussion, Polina Teslyar, MD, associate psychiatrist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said she came to the United States from Ukraine at the age of 7, but noted she still has many family members in Lviv, Ukraine – many of whom have changed their daily roles to focus on war efforts. “I never had the privilege of living in a free and independent Ukraine, but many of my family did, so this is a very real and personal war,” she said. “People are in survival mode right now. The needs are going to be huge – they already are – so my network of family and friends remain in constant communication to provide Ukrainians with whatever they need.”
More than 140 people joined the virtual webinar organized and hosted by Mark C. Poznansky MD, PhD, director of the MGH Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center, the first in what he plans will be a continued series, keeping staff informed about the many efforts Mass General Brigham’s Ukrainian-born physicians are making in the war on Ukraine.
“When health care providers see bad things going on, they feel the need to go and act and help,” said Poznansky. “We are all led by that desire to help wherever we can – this is what unites us all.”