Journal Highlights: Roads I Have Traveled ... Excerpt #1 Ukraine 1997

(Note: These following Journal entries represent one of the finest episodes of the early life of Project C.U.R.E. We happened to be at the right place at the right time to providentially influence the scope and sequence of change in the health care delivery system in the country of Ukraine. Later, those seeds of change lapped over to influence change in other countries of the old Soviet Federation. My heart is again warmed as I share these journal entries with you. JWJ).

Ukraine: January 10, 1997:

Earlier in these writings, I chronicled the details of our involvement in the remarkable republic of Ukraine that had been a part of the former Soviet Union. Project C.U.R.E. had shipped literally millions of dollars’ worth of medical supplies to the cities of Vinnitsa and Kiev, Ukraine. In fact, Project C.U.R.E. had donated and shipped over eighteen tons of medical library books to the National Pirogov Memorial Medical University in Vinnitsa. The institution can now boast of having the finest English-language medical library in all of Eastern Europe.

I had the opportunity of meeting many of the high-ranking government officials in the Ukraine and toured a high percentage of their medical facilities while conducting our Needs Assessment Studies.

I returned to the old Soviet Union and the Ukraine in September of 1996, accompanied by Dr. Brian McMurray, Dr. Mark Johnson, and several other wonderful people from the Nashville, Tennessee, area. The trip was very successful, and Project C.U.R.E. followed up the visit by sending another approximately $750,000 worth of desperately needed supplies to the Ukrainian hospitals. I thoroughly enjoyed being with Dr. Brian McMurray. He and his wife became Christians only about a year prior to our trip. His high energy level and enthusiasm for doing something for God and helping the needy people in the Ukraine was contagious. It was refreshing to just be around him and watch his excitement focused on the medical needs of Vinnitsa.

But I was equally impressed with the young Dr. Mark Johnson. He was in his mid-thirties and had already gained a great deal of respect in the medical community as a urologist. It was Mark’s first venture away from the sophisticated hospitals of Nashville and the Vanderbilt medical community.

I will never forget as long as I live Dr. Mark’s first encounter with the university people the day he arrived in Vinnitsa. He had procured and taken along with him some state-of-the-art urology probes and scopes for bladder, prostate, and kidney procedures. His intent was to train the medical-university surgeons and professors in advanced urology techniques and then leave the high‑tech instruments with them. They would be the first in the whole area of the old Soviet Union to be trained in how to use the equipment and perform the procedures.

When Dr. Mark arrived to meet with the department leaders at the university, he discovered that there was no interpreter to translate the doctors’ Russian into English or his English into Russian. But true to his young American ingenuity, Dr. Mark never let the mishap throw him off beat for one minute. He simply unpacked all his urology equipment and medications, pulled out a large piece of clean paper, and began to draw pictures for the university doctors. After he had completed his masterpiece on the human anatomy, he began writing labels in English on all the appropriate body parts. When finished, he pushed the pictures over to the Ukrainians and motioned for them to label all the pictures in Russian. Next, they practiced saying the names of the body parts in both English and Russian. Equipped with pictures, urology instruments, and the names of body parts, Dr. Mark then proceeded to explain and illustrate the use of the new probes and scopes.

The Ukrainians were absolutely delighted, especially when they realized that Dr. Mark had brought all the equipment for them to keep and use.

After Dr. Mark had spent the entire day with the Ukrainian doctors, they took him to dinner to celebrate their new friendship. Fortunately, by that time the interpreter had caught up with them, and things went a lot easier. At dinner, with the aid of the interpreter, Dr. Mark gave the Ukrainian doctors an explanation of why he had come all the way from America to be with them. He explained what Jesus Christ had done in his life and how he had changed the lives of his entire family and their lifestyle. Now he was there to share Christ’s love and concern with them. 

The doctors arranged for Dr. Mark to operate on some of their patients the next morning. He was able to demonstrate the urology equipment and explain the latest medical procedures. I went into the operating room while Dr. Mark was doing the procedures. They had given him Russian operating scrubs and a tall stovepipe baker’s hat worn by the surgeons. I must admit, it was one of the proudest days of my life with Project C.U.R.E. What was taking place halfway around the world from Denver, Colorado, and Nashville, Tennessee, had to be making God smile.

The day after Thanksgiving, Dr. Mark Johnson and Dr. Brian McMurray went back to Vinnitsa and held free clinics at a Russian Orthodox church, a Pentecostal church, and several of the Baptist churches in the area. On that trip they each took with them their eleven- and twelve‑year‑old daughters. Their entire families were now locked into sharing the love of God through medicine with people they had never even known existed two years before.

While returning to the airport in Kiev for the flight back to the USA, Dr. Mark asked Edward Gluschenko, our English-speaking liaison in Ukraine, what we could do for them that would be uniquely helpful. Edward explained that the Ukrainian legislature was in the process of determining the direction of the health-care industry in their new republic. In the past, Ukrainian medical philosophies and practices had been sternly dictated by the Soviet designers in Moscow, as in all the other republics. Ukraine’s health-care delivery system was rigidly centralized. Doctors and other medical personnel were simply workers of the state assigned to take care of the sick people of the Soviet Union. There was no invitation for creativity and no tolerance for deviation from mandated procedures.

Now, with the collapse of the Soviet regime, Ukraine was facing a historic opportunity for change. Now was the time to change the philosophical direction of health care for the first time ever. Edward explained to Mark the desire to take full advantage of the fortuitous timing and build into the new system some basic cornerstones of free market, non-centralized medicine. The new laws were to be voted on by parliament in late January or early February of 1997. Those new laws would set the direction for the future of the medical profession.

The only problem was that no one in the Ukraine knew enough about free-enterprise economics to even begin to formulate the concepts, let alone articulate in a written proposal to the legislature the articles expected to be voted into the new law of the land. Edward asked if Dr. Mark might know of anyone who might be able to help them at this juncture.

Continued Next Week: A Bold and Crazy Plan

© Dr. James W. Jackson   

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