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UToledo Team Headed to Poland to Train Ukrainian Physicians in Trauma Care

A group of physicians and nurses from The University of Toledo will soon travel to Poland to lead a pair of Advance Trauma Life Support classes, training Ukrainian doctors and other healthcare providers how to better manage serious battlefield injuries.

Developed and managed by the American College of Surgeons, Advance Trauma Life Support is generally intended for emergency medicine physicians, surgeons and other doctors who regularly are confronted with trauma patients.

From left, Cristina Alvarado, Dr. Stephen Markowiak, Dr. Kristopher Brickman and Kristin Calkins are among a group of UToledo physicians and nurses traveling to Warsaw to train Ukrainian and Polish doctors in Advance Trauma Life Support.

In Ukraine and neighboring Poland, the need goes far beyond that.

The ongoing war has forced nearly every physician in the country to be at the ready for taking on trauma cases — something well outside the expertise of most doctors.

“You’re asking physicians who don’t typically specialize in trauma to start taking care of trauma patients and teach others to be prepared for it. They desperately need this training. They’re living it,” said Cristina Alvarado, a registered nurse and director of immersive and simulation-based learning at UToledo.

On July 16, Alvarado and the rest of the UToledo team will depart for the Medical University of Warsaw, where they’ll provide the training for a mix of Polish physicians, Polish paramedics and Ukrainian physicians who are traveling from Bukovinian State Medical University in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, a city near the Moldovan-Romanian border.

“The goal of this trip truly is to give them the knowledge, training, education and the tools to not only handle traumas better but teach others how to handle them better as well,” Alvarado said.

The training to be provided includes how to establish an airway and initiate assisted breathing, addressing collapsed lungs and placing a central line. The course also focuses heavily on how to triage injuries, rapidly assess a patient’s condition and how and when to make decisions on specific interventions.

Among those who will participate in the training is Dr. Olena Korotun, a Ukrainian pediatrician and associate professor at Bukovinian State Medical University who Alvarado knew through the medical simulation community.

Soon after the Russian invasion, Alvarado connected with Korotun to check in and ask how UToledo might be able to help. Though Korotun’s university has an advanced simulation center, it had never focused on tactical medicine or trauma care — which she said has become the most essential skill for any Ukrainain doctor.

Korotun and Alvarado worked to put together virtual trainings that could be streamed live from the UToledo’s Jacobs Interprofessional Immersive Simulation Center to physicians in Chernivtsi, which has emerged as a key training site for physicians because of its relative safety.

An April trip to Poland to meet with Medical University of Warsaw leadership helped set the stage for the on-the-ground training the UToledo Team will be doing in July.

“When it comes to me personally as a pediatrician and medical doctor, I want — I need — to be ready and confident to face trauma. It is an essential skill in my country today,” Korotun said. “Too many children have gone during this war already. We need to do all that is possible to not increase that number.”

In addition to Alvarado, the UToledo team includes Dr. Kristopher Brickman an emergency medicine specialist and director of the Global Health Program in the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, Kristin Calkins, a registered nurse and director of trauma services at The University of Toledo Medical Center, and Dr. Stephen Markowiak, a general surgeon at UTMC.

Dr. Stanislaw Stepkowski, a Warsaw native who is professor of medical microbiology and immunology at UToledo, and Dr. Ivan Kaspruk, an emergency medicine resident at UToledo who is originally from Ukraine, will join the team to assist in translation.

Once in Poland, UToledo’s team will be joined by physicians from Missouri, Cyprus and the Netherlands.

The project also is being supported by Gaumard Scientific, which is sending key simulation equipment to Warsaw to assist in the hands-on training clinicians will undertake. The Florida-based company is one of the leading producers of patient simulators and is providing the materials free of charge.

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