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The Ukrainian Medical Association of the UK (UMAUK) held its Inaugural Conference at The Ukrainian Institute in London on Saturday 5th November 2011. It attracted 68 delegates from the United Kingdom, Ukraine and the United States.

Special guests included Roxolana Horbowyj MSChE, MD, FACS - Vice President of the World Federation of Ukrainian Medical Associations and Director of the project CITKA LIKAPIB from the US; Vira Pavlyuk, Director of Partnership Projects at the International Charitable Foundation Ukraine 3000; Andriy Miroshnychenko, Councillor of the Chairperson of the Supervisory Board at the International Charitable Foundation Ukraine 3000 and Igor Marsenkovsky – Chief Child Psychiatrist of Ukraine.

There were several student and professional representatives from both the UK and Ukraine. The universities and colleges represented were: Kings College Institute of Psychiatry; St. Georges’ Medical School, London; Bogomolets National Medical University, Kyiv; Lviv National Medical University; Kharkiv National Medical University; Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge; St Mary's University College, Twickenham; Eynsford College, London and Kingston University.

The Conference was organised by the initiative group led by Dr Dennis Ougrin MB BS MRCPsych, Kraupl Taylor Research Fellow, Institute of Psychiatry in London, Dr Roman Cregg MB BS, FRCA, an Academic Clinical Fellow based at the University College London Centre for Anaesthesia, Dr. Bohdan Ciapryna – retired ophthalmic surgeon, and an interim committee who had formed in October 2010.

The day started out with the first annual general meeting of the newly formed association. This was well attended by both members, people interested in becoming members and guests from Ukraine. It was chaired by Dr. Bohdan Ciapryna. The members ratified the Constitution and voted in the first ever committee of the Ukrainian Medical Association of the United Kingdom. The first Chair of the UMAUK is Dr Roman Cregg MB BS, FRCA.

The conference took place throughout the rest of the day and was thoroughly enjoyed by all participants. The theme of the conference was “INNOVATIONS IN HEALTHCARE: TRANSLATIONAL VALUE FOR EASTERN EUROPE”.

The aim of the Conference was to bring together medical and allied healthcare professionals of Ukrainian origin in the UK, or those who have an interest in healthcare in Ukraine and its development. There were many guest speakers who gave a variety of lectures and ran several workshops. There was a focus on innovations in healthcare applicable to Eastern Europe.

Professor Henry Marsh, Consultant Neurosurgeon, St George’s Hospital shared his experiences of working in the Ukrainian healthcare system since 1992. He discussed both the pleasures and the pitfalls of working in Ukraine over the years. Interesting points included the fact that less than 5% of the physicians in Ukraine are general practitioners (compared to the UK 17%), the very low level of healthcare expenditure per capita compared to other similar ex-Soviet countries and the poor medical infrastructure which exists in the public sector. On a brighter note, there have been improvements since 1992 and he has gained much pleasure being a mentor to others and enjoying the Ukrainian hospitality.

Professor Ricky Banarsee, Imperial College, discussed recent Public Health advances within London. There was a subsequent discussion about how this could be applied to Ukraine in the future. There is currently a limited primary care system in Ukraine and hence public health policies are difficult to implement. In the future it is hoped that links could be forged with Ukrainian bodies to share knowledge and improve the healthcare of the Ukrainian nation.

Dr Semyon Gluzman, Ukrainian Psychiatric Association shared his experience first handedly of being the first psychiatrist to openly oppose Soviet abuse of psychiatry against dissenters. Dr. Gluzman wrote a report concluding that General Grigorenko (who spoke about human rights abuses in the Soviet Union) was mentally sane, and had been taking to a psychiatric hospital for political reasons. This led to him being forced to serve seven years in a labour camp and three years in Siberian exile. Later in his talk he also shared with us progress within the Ukrainian legal system with regards to improving the legal rights of people who are declared mentally incapacitated.

Delegates participated in one of two workshops organised by Professor Emily Simonoff, King’s College (research applications), Professor Paul Thomas, editor in chief, London Journal of Primary Care and Dr Brian Jacobs, Consultant Psychiatrist, South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (the art of writing articles).

There were two further talks at the close of the day given by Professor  David Collier, Institute of Psychiatry and Professor Robert Goodman, King’s College with regards to grant applications and the screening of paediatric mental illness respectively.

At the conference Dr Roman Cregg presented UMAUK’s first serious project for the Ukrainian community - a medical information clinic based in the Ukrainian Catholic church, London. This is a pilot project that hopes to improve medical access for the most vulnerable members of our community and also gain an understanding about the healthcare needs of this specific migrant population. It is planned to start later this month. 

To end the day the delegation enjoyed a wine and cheese reception within the lovely surroundings of the Ukrainian Institute. Many friendships were forged, as well as excellent links between UK and Ukraine based professionals. It is hoped that these links will foster exchange of knowledge, encourage an open discourse regarding the healthcare needs of both the Ukrainian population in the UK as well as in Ukraine and in the words of the new chair “do a lot of good and have some fun doing it”.

The UMAUK are grateful to King’s College, London for their generous sponsorship of the event, The Ukrainian Institute in London and particular its director Andriy Hunder who was extremely supportive throughout the formation of the association, and offered the fantastic premises of the Ukrainian Institute for what was a very memorable Inaugural Conference.