The Ukraine Mission

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Alumni Profiles - Fall 2023

December 19, 2023 | Jennifer Smith

Installing a missile alert app on the phone, hotel staff introducing the bomb shelter, vehicles lining the country border highway in one direction: out, complex emergency surgeries in wartime conditions, no single quiet moment under air raid sirens to even think about the surrounding destruction and devastation, and a traumatized boy who stopped speaking — it has been a year of defining impressions for VICTOR CZERKASIJ ’22.

A December 2022 graduate of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Organizational Leadership program, Czerkasij did not hesitate to put his Graceland degree into action. He recognized how he could carry it forward in his communication with a developing network of medical professionals in Ukraine. Czerkasij describes the situation, “They are at the forefront of the greatest national healthcare crisis since the nation’s independence [in 1991],” he said. “They are very much in need of new ways to develop and channel their medical resources: it is a nation in triage.”

Since then, Czerkasij has traveled to Ukraine twice as a member of high-profile medical delegations upon invitation by the Christian Medical Association, LEAP Global Missions, and the Ukrainian/ American humanitarian support group Razom (“Together”).

With most of Ukraine’s medical personnel serving at the front lines, Czerkasij and his colleagues provided desperately needed medical assistance to the civilian population behind the lines. Their assignment was to perform technically challenging surgeries at three children’s hospitals and a military hospital in the greater Lviv and Kyiv areas. He worked alongside top U.S. surgeons, physicians, and pediatric specialists, with a remarkable combined bandwith of expertise in general plastic and craniofacial reconstructive surgery, otolaryngology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, and neurology.

Along with other medical professionals with various specialties, Czerkasij served at several hospitals and was able to conduct multiple consults and lectures for Ukrainian doctors and nurses, speaking fluently in their language. He notes his favorite part was the children’s hospitals, working with surgeons in a translation services role during very technical surgeries.

The working conditions were demanding and humbling — the days were long and the queues of patients in front of the hospitals even longer, space was cramped and the infrastructure compromised. Czerkasij was struck by the altruism of his little patients — with donated funds, he purchased books, toys, and games for the kids. Many initially refused to accept a gift, pointing out that a child next door was worse off and needed it more than themselves.

Czerkasij’s organizational leadership insight, dermatology specialization, and fluency in Ukrainian were highly sought after. He translated during the surgical procedures, and outside the operating rooms he conducted consults and lectures. His DNP degree from Graceland sparked the interest of politicians and policy makers exploring international healthcare systems and public health frameworks as possible models for Ukraine.

In conclusion of their first Ukraine trip, the group’s work received recognition from the highest level — on behalf of President Zelenskyy, the Ministry of Health invited them to one of his residences, Potocki Palace, for a banquet in their honor. A most memorable evening, Czerkasij says, that was surpassed shortly after this second trip by a message from Kyiv — the boy who fell silent for a month in trauma response to a missile attack on his home, came out of his initial shock and asked for Victor, “the American doctor.”

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