Bringing Rehabilitation Expertise to Ukraine’s Wounded: Organizing Training for Doctors During Wartime: Moved by the anguish sweeping his homeland, Dr. Alex Moroz conceived of a training program for Ukrainian rehabilitation specialists in June of 2023.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has inflicted catastrophic damage, leaving thousands grappling with traumatic limb loss, complex fractures, and devastating injuries. Ukraine’s healthcare system strains to meet the needs of the wounded. Wait lists for prosthetics stretch almost endlessly.
Moved by the anguish sweeping his homeland, Dr. Alex Moroz conceived of a training program for Ukrainian rehabilitation specialists in June of 2023. An American physiatrist and educator of Ukrainian descent, he assembled an experienced interdisciplinary team at New York University (NYU) that understood the intricacies of blast injuries and post-amputation recovery. He then established a program that invited three Ukrainian physicians to NYU for a two-week intensive training on treating patients affected by the war. By sharing the hard-won knowledge of the NYU team, Dr. Moroz hoped to light a spark that could blossom into resilience.
Through professional connections, Dr. Moroz identified several partner hospitals in Ukraine bearing heavy patient loads. He led weekly virtual discussions analyzing their most complex cases and developing customized rehabilitation plans. From this collaboration, trust and inspiration grew.
When conceiving of the on-site program, Dr. Moroz targeted the most pressing problems faced by Ukrainian colleagues – limb loss, wound recovery, complex fractures, and prosthetic rehabilitation. With NYU faculty spanning physical medicine and rehabilitation, orthopedic surgery, PT, OT, and mental health, the curriculum covered both physical and emotional trauma.
Yet navigating the logistics of wartime posed challenges. With staff shortages across Ukrainian hospitals, directors weighed depletion versus advancement, and compromised by coordinating a two-week opportunity for physicians in Ukraine to travel to and train in New York. Application requirements included English fluency and potential for future leadership roles in Ukrainian rehabilitation, favoring selection of candidates poised to disseminate their learnings.
Remarkably the visa process progressed smoothly, aided by the training’s humanitarian implications. Three Ukrainian doctors participated in the intensive training, arriving on November 8, 2023. Their days began early and ended late as they observed clinical evaluations at the rehabilitation hospital and clinics, surgeries, and worked directly with patients. The program also offered customized sessions – pain management techniques, fabrication of therapeutic splints, and training on high-tech prosthetics – and featured candid discussions around the psychological impact of trauma, burnout, PTSD, and maintaining hope.
Several organizations contributed to the effort. For example, flights, ground transport from Staten Island to hospital sites in Manhattan, and meals were supported by Scholars at Risk. Kind Deeds, a Ukrainian-American nonprofit which helps facilitate prosthetics for wounded Ukrainian soldiers, provided housing and some meals. Several restaurants even donated dinners, allowing the visiting physicians to sample local cuisine, and the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America generously offered a small daily stipend.
In just two weeks, sparks were nurtured into flames. When asked to rate their knowledge gain, the visiting physicians averaged 92% of goals met, which included expanding knowledge and hands-on skills while offering weary doctors rest and community. Yet, perhaps more vital was the space for shared grief, restored faith, and vision bringing light through the fog of war.