Doctors United for Ukraine Establishes Scholars at Risk—Ukraine Program

Photos courtesy of Doctors United for Ukraine

Doctors United for Ukraine (DU4U) recently launched its Scholars at Risk—Ukraine Program. In 2022, DU4U was established by three faculty members at the Yale School of Medicine: Andrey Zinchuk, MD, MHS; Irina Esterlis, PhD; and Alla Vash-Margita, MD, FACOG. The three, all of whom are Ukrainian, were inspired by the plight of Ukraine to do all they could to help.

“[We were moved by] the sight of complete injustice and the full-scale war being waged against our home country. [We knew] that innocent people who simply wanted to have a choice about their future were being targeted for their beliefs and also for who they are: Ukrainian,” Andrey explained.

Further, as faculty at the Yale School of Medicine who specialize in critical care (Andrey), women and infants’ health (Alla), and mental health (Irina), the three had expertise that could be used to address issues in the supply and distribution of medical equipment in Ukraine.

“We saw that the aid took too long to get into the hands of physicians and that it was unclear where much of the aid supplied by larger organizations or bought with all the donations early in the war ended up,” Andrey explained. “[So] we wanted to understand what the key gaps in equipment and supplies were that prevented doctors in the key spots around the country from doing their work and wanted to deliver them into the hands of physicians rapidly.”

So far, DU4U has succeeded in raising over one million dollars in aid for Ukraine, providing everything from ventilators to replacement heart valves to defibrillators. In addition to equipment, they have also been able to offer their own knowledge and experience, partnering with health professionals in Ukraine to provide care for people across the country, having assisted in Kharkiv, Odessa, Kyiv, and more.

DU4U has since expanded from providing medical supplies to also establishing the Scholars at Risk—Ukraine program. The program seeks to give “young, motivated physicians who work in hot-spots of conflict in Ukraine” the medical skills and knowledge needed to best provide for their patients. Over the course of three years, the program hopes to not only prepare health professionals to offer care in Ukraine, but also provide them with education that the war has prevented them from accessing.

In DU4U’s work, support from organizations in both America and Ukraine has proven instrumental. Andrey explained how Yale groups like the Yale MacMillan Center and Dwight Hall have greatly helped DU4U. In particular, the MacMillan Center assisted in creating the Scholars at Risk—Ukraine program. Though the experts at DU4U had drafted a curriculum and had doctors at the Yale School of Medicine, Yale School of Public Health and Yale-New Haven Hospital ready to teach, they lacked the funding to make their vision a reality.

“This is where the MacMillan Center came in,” Andrey explained. “Their understanding of the acuity and importance of this mission was backed up with…funding. This project would not come to fruition for many months (or at all) without the funding.”

Meanwhile, Dwight Hall provided fiscal sponsorship and advice on establishing and running a nonprofit organization. “[Dwight Hall] was our guardian angel,” Andrey said. “We could not have succeeded as a nonprofit without [Dwight Hall’s] expertise, kind guidance from Peter Crumlish, and…fiscal sponsorship. We needed a way to receive donations and being associated with a top charitable organization in Connecticut with over 100 years of experience was indispensable.”

Beyond Yale organizations, Andrey also highlighted the assistance from DLA Piper (a multinational law firm), medical supply companies like Edwards Lifesciences and ResMed, and groups like the European Institute for Public Health Policy and the Christian Medical Association of Ukraine. And for those who would like to contribute themselves, Andrey suggests monetary donations, or reaching out to the organization to find more ways to help.

Andrey emphasizes the admirable and inspiring perseverance of Ukraine amidst the ongoing war, “from continuing heart surgery under flashlights and generators, to adapting sleep apnea machines to become ventilators (breathing machines) that allow transport of the wounded from the war theater.”

“The aid to Ukraine is not charity,” Andrey argued. “It is an investment in the country and people who are fighting for western values, freedom, and truth. However, it is very difficult to keep up this resilience. Many of our partners who were optimistic and full of energy and positivity six months ago, are now still optimistic. But they are exhausted; the war and non-stop emergency life is wearing on them. They need help, now more than ever. We cannot stop now.”

You can donate to Doctors United for Ukraine here, and learn more about their work here

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