Three Westshore Physicians Plan Medical Mission to Ukraine

UH Urologists to perform surgery on trauma patients in mission trip facilitated by Ukrainian-born UH doctor; UH also sending ambulance stocked with supplies

Shubham Gupta, MD, Laura Bukavina, MD and Kirtishri Mishra, MD

Three University Hospitals Urology Institute physicians are traveling to Ukraine in October to perform pelvic surgeries on trauma patients injured in the ongoing war with Russia. UH also is supporting the mission by sending a donated ambulance stocked with nearly 700 pounds of surgical and wound supplies.

Laura Bukavina, MD, a Ukrainian-born urologic oncologist at University Hospitals, inspired the mission after three previous trips to her war-ravaged homeland. On her first trip to Ukraine just days after Russia’s February 2022 invasion, she found little medical support at a border crossing. This time she’s bringing reinforcements in the form of two reconstructive urologists who can perform procedures on patients with war-related pelvic trauma. Dr. Bukavina, along with Shubham Gupta, MD, of Rocky River, and Kirtishri Mishra, MD, of Bay Village, will travel to Lviv and Kiev from Oct. 13-22.

The three physicians work together at UH Parma Medical Center, in the heart of the largest Ukrainian population in Ohio. Dr. Bukavina grew up in Parma, after emigrating with her mother from the Ukrainian city of Lviv when she was 11.

“This goes beyond mere temporary relief,” said Dr. Bukavina. “By sending our globally recognized surgeons to Ukraine, we’re embodying UH’s mission: to heal, to teach, to discover. They’ll not only execute life-saving surgeries and improve quality of life, but by training the gifted Ukrainian physicians, we’re ensuring these advanced surgical techniques continue to benefit the local population long after our mission concludes.”

In Ukraine, where Dr. Bukavina maintains many contacts, she plans for UH surgeons to introduce local physicians to innovative surgical techniques to better care for their patients wounded in combat. As a urologic oncologist who did her surgical residency at UH and her fellowship at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia before recently returning to Cleveland, she is making connections with urology practices in Lviv and veterans hospitals in Kiev.

“There are patients there that have needs, and we have a list of patients. So we know what kinds of surgeries will be needed,” said Dr. Gupta. “But a lot of this is about awareness, too. There are multiple objectives; what we do for the patients, and the education and teaching we can impart to the surgeons there.

“It has been over a year now and for some it (the war) has moved to the back burner. But people are still suffering. By doing this, it’s something we can stress to increase more awareness.”

“As with any war, there are a lot of casualties and they all need care,” added Dr. Mishra. “This is an opportunity for us to use our years of training to really make an impactful change for a lot of people, their quality of life and their physical and mental well-being.

“These war related injuries, gunshots, explosions, crush injuries, pelvic trauma can have a lot of impact on not just the physical part of things but a lasting impact on the person’s psyche. The role is not only to restore function but to live and have a satisfying life afterwards.”

UH donors David Rosenberg, MD, a pulmonologist at UH Ahuja Medical Center, and Enid Rosenberg, former UH Ahuja Medical Center Board member, worked with Daniel I. Simon, MD, UH’s President of Academic & External Affairs and Chief Scientific Officer, Ernie and Patti Novak Distinguished Chair in Healthcare Leadership and Daniel Ellenberger, EMT-P, Director UH EMS Institute, to facilitate the donation of an ambulance that will be shipped to Ukraine. The three UH physicians stocked the ambulance at MedWish, a local nonprofit started by UH Urology Institute Chairman Lee Ponsky, MD, that collects and ships surplus medical supplies to countries in need.

“This is a great community story,” said Dr. Simon. “So many people came together to give this ambulance to this mission and support the people of Ukraine.

The urologic surgeons traveling to Ukraine with Dr. Bukavina are pleased their expertise can be beneficial to patients and medical professionals abroad.

“We aren’t going to change the world in one trip, but there are a lot of skills and expertise we can bring to bear,” said Dr. Gupta. “Laura is providing an amazing example of what can be done.”

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