Surgeon organizes medical supply drive for Ukrainian hospitals

David Brown is one of several doctors who travels to Ukraine to do burn reconstruction surgery every year. When Russia invaded the country, he knew he needed to help.

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Author | Mary Clare Fischer

Surgeons wearing masks, gowns and glasses, light in background
Credit: Michigan Medicine

On Feb. 25, the day after the Russia-Ukraine war began, the New York Times shared a video clip of newborn babies who'd been moved to a bomb shelter amid fears that the eastern Ukrainian hospital they'd been in would be hit by missiles.

It was sobering footage for anyone to watch — but for David Brown, M.D., it was also personal.

The University of Michigan Health plastic surgeon had traveled to that very hospital just last fall as part of a group of physicians from multiple health centers that performs burn reconstruction surgeries for Ukrainian children on an annual basis. He and his colleagues had spent years not only treating these kids, but also teaching Ukrainian surgeons and nurses how to care for them when the Americans returned home.

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"Seeing these nurses hand bagging intensive care babies in the basement on supply boxes," Brown said, "obviously, we were trying to think of what we could do to help."

The answer: organizing a supply drive for hospitals and other organizations providing medical care on the ground in Ukraine. 

So far, Brown has teamed up with a Southfield, Mich., nonprofit called World Medical Relief to donate eight pallets of medical supplies, including sutures, bandages and other emergency and operating room supplies.

Since we have intimate knowledge of Ukrainian systems, we can get the donations right in the hands of those who need them.
David Lawrence Brown, MD

"When the University of Michigan, which is a longtime partner of World Medical Relief, connected Dr. Brown with us with a request for aid to Ukraine, we were honored to coordinate this humanitarian relief and to donate the supplies for the doctors in Ukraine, giving them the necessary tools to treat the wounded, especially the children," said George Samson, Ph.D., the president and CEO of World Medical Relief, which has redistributed surplus medical resources to more than 100 countries since 1953. "I am thankful for the tremendous support of our local community and hospitals along with our volunteers who work tirelessly to save people's lives."

Shriners Children's Boston anesthesiologist Gennadiy Fuzaylov, M.D., who came up with the idea for the burn reconstruction efforts in Ukraine way back when, has secured additional pallets. And the Texas-based Omnis Foundation, which assists families affected by civil and military unrest with basic necessities, has agreed to pay the costs to ship the goods to Poland by air and then drive them into Ukraine.

"All of these supplies are going to go exactly to people who desperately need them," Brown said. "Sometimes in situations like these, that can be difficult. They can get picked up on black markets or taken and redistributed other places. But since we have intimate knowledge of Ukrainian systems, and we know all the government officials and the hospital administrators and the surgeons, we can get the donations right in the hands of those who need them." 

Fuzaylov has set up a nonprofit called Doctors Collaborating to Help Children to manage additional donations, which can be monetary as well.

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