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Ukrainian medical professionals visit campus for international exchange of ideas

KU Medical Center’s Office of International Programs welcomed six visitors from Ukraine as international visits resume.

A man wearing a mask facing the camera listens while a woman facing away from the camera speaks
Yehven Batura, chief specialist for the National Health Service of Ukraine, talks with Halyna Fedosyuk, senior research associate for the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at KU Medical Center. Fedosyuk emigrated to Kansas City from Ukraine in 1998 and helped lead the tour.

Six young medical professionals from Ukraine toured research laboratories at the University of Kansas Medical Center on Dec. 14.

They were part of a delegation arranged by Open World, a U.S. government exchange program, and assisted by the nonprofit organization Global Ties KC. The Office of International Programs at KU Medical Center welcomed the visitors to the Kansas City campus.

The purpose was to provide the Ukrainians with a look into how health care is practiced in the United States, from research to patient care, and to learn from the visitors in return.

“It’s very important, the communications between Ukrainians and you here so that we can get the perspective of how things work here and share our perspective,” said Mariia Savrun, chief of sales for Flexmonster, a software company, and the facilitator of the group from Ukraine. “We have lots of innovative initiatives because we’re a young country.”

A group of visitors from Ukraine talk with faculty in a lab at KU Medical Center

Mykola Rodnin, Ph.D., research associate for the
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
(pictured at right) talks with delegates from
Ukraine and KU Medical Center colleagues.

Seeing things in person

The Ukrainians met with specialists in rehabilitation, medical records, radiation oncology and anesthesia from The University of Kansas Health System and toured research laboratories and the Zamierowski Institute for Experiential Learning.

“[I am a] pharmacist by background, and visiting laboratories and a medical university from the inside, I feel here as I do at my native university, being a student,” said Oresta Piniazhko, chief of the medical technology and pharmaceutical therapy board for the Ministry of Health in Ukraine.  “Laboratories [are] very close to me.”

Courtney Brooks, executive director of Global Ties KC, joined the tour as well. She said the Ukrainian visitors would be in the Kansas City area for seven days touring other hospitals, clinics and health-related organizations such as Oracle Cerner and Heart to Heart International.

“Global KC just resumed in-person exchange programs in June, which has been wonderful,” Brooks said. During the pandemic, Global KC set up virtual meetings internationally, and some of those virtual meetings are continuing. “But face-to-face interactions are obviously different, to be able to walk through a lab and be with people in person,” she said.

Travel detour

Setting up that in-person interaction proved even more difficult because of the military conflict in Ukraine and the ongoing war with Russia since Feb. 24, 2022.

Because they could not fly safely from a Ukrainian airport, they traveled another 16 hours to depart from Poland, Savrun said. From Poland, it was on to Frankfurt, Germany, then Washington, D.C., then Chicago, and then at last to Kansas City. “We were on the way for two or three days,” she said.

But getting their feet on the bright white linoleum of the labs in the Hemenway Life Sciences and Innovation Center at KU Medical Center may pay dividends for the Ukrainians later on — and vice versa. And what they bring back to Ukraine may be especially helpful because of the war. “War brings many new challenges, especially with trauma, rehabilitation and mental health,” Savrun said. “So, we’re very grateful for this opportunity.”

Restarting international group visits

Kimberly Connelly, senior international officer for the Office of International Programs at KU Medical Center, said the Ukrainian delegation was only the second group of international visitors to visit campus since the pandemic shutdown. (The first, from Moya University in Kenya, arrived in October 2022.)

“In international education, we bring people together for that human connection,” Connelly said. “I think when a country is experiencing difficulties — for Ukraine, a war — it’s even more important to make sure there are more of these opportunities.”

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