Sending Medical and Moral Support to Ukraine

Des Moines University has donated medical equipment to support the people of Ukraine during Russia’s military invasion.

This and other donations from Central Iowans are providing support during the ongoing war — and it started with a connection in 2020 when the Iowa Sister States, a nonprofit organization that connects Iowans with people from other countries to foster citizen diplomacy, contacted two DMU faculty members.

That call to Thomas Benzoni, D.O.’83, EM, AOBEM, FACEP, assistant professor of osteopathic clinical medicine, and Noreen O’Shea, D.O.’84, FAAFP, who in June retired as assistant professor of behavioral medicine, inspired the couple to host Ukrainian physicians Anastasiia Khodan, M.D., and Maryna Khalimonenko, M.D., during a visit to the state. They toured various health centers, learned about health care delivery in America, and even met then-presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The doctors kept in touch. When Russia invaded Ukraine two years later, Benzoni and O’Shea contacted their Ukrainian friends to see how they were coping.

That sparked contributions of medical knowledge, supplies and equipment from Iowa to the war-torn nation. The Polk County Medical Society contacted local media to promote the Iowa connection. The society’s chief executive officer, Paula Noonan, and Benzoni contacted local members of the American College of Emergency Physicians to assemble and translate teaching videos and materials about battlefield medicine.

Above, Chad Becker, D.O.’16, left; his father, Charlie Becker, right; and Daniil Bagiriants, their main contact in Odesa, Ukraine, arranged for donated medical equipment and supplies to get to trusted organizations. While they weren’t near battlefields, the war’s destruction was widely evident.

In 2022 after the war started, Chad Becker, D.O.’16, an emergency medicine physician who divides his time between California and Iowa, collected donated medical supplies, including a few depreciated ultrasound machines donated by DMU, and delivered them to Poland for delivery to Ukraine. This March, Becker returned to Ukraine with more ultrasound machines from DMU and other other donated materials.

When PCMS held its annual membership meeting in March, Khodan and Khalimonenko participated via Zoom. The two family medicine physicians weren’t on the front lines, but they described the challenges of treating the flood of people fleeing hot spots along with increased cases of rape and unintended pregnancies, soaring mental health issues and the “usual” chronic health conditions. While their situation is grim, their resilience and gratitude were evident.

“We are so grateful to the physicians and DMU for donations that are now at the front lines.”

— Anastasiia Khodan, M.D.

Resilience Amid Violence and Uncertainty

Chad Becker, D.O.’16, praised the spirited tenacity of the people of Ukraine, including Daniil Bagiriants, one of his contacts there. Those qualities were on display by Ukrainian family physicians Anastasiia Khodan and Maryna Khalimonenko, below, when they joined the Polk County Medical Society’s annual meeting, via Zoom, on March 23. Amid the many hardships created by the war, they expressed gratitude to DMU and PCMS members who continue to donate equipment and supplies.

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