By Maegan A. Rocio
A reunion of two old friends at Providence Hospital on April 16 proved that lasting friendships can make life-changing differences to the lives that surround them.
Former Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko and his wife Kateryna, paid a visit to Providence Hospital in Waco and were welcomed by the hospital staff and associates at John Woods Ministries, Inc. with a private reception.
On April 16, the couple visited Providence Hospital to thank the establishment’s physicians, directors and associates for their invaluable assistance in training Ukrainian doctors for the past 15 years through their participation in the International Medical Education Foundation.
Their arrival was followed by a reception at which the president and Dr. John Wood exchanged gifts as tokens of their friendship.
The 15-year-old foundation was the result of the partnership of the country of Ukraine and Providence Hospital with John Woods Ministries, Inc. John Woods Ministries is an interdenominational religious and non-profit organization in which individuals can participate in evangelical efforts through missions trips.
The International Medical Exchange Foundation, a missionary organization dedicated to training Ukrainian physicians and spreading the Gospel, accepts delegations from Ukraine and allows them to train under doctors in the United States and also sends American delegates to Ukraine.
“We have hosted a delegation from the Ukraine every 3 to 4 years,“ said Providence Hospital President and CEO Kent Keahey. “We’ve sent employees over to perform medical techniques and to be observed by the Ukrainian physicians, techniques including coronary artery bypass surgery. [Such observation] helped to improve medical knowledge and dropped the mortality rate from 14 percent to 1 percent.”
Erin Rogers, marketing project manager at Providence Hospital, described the creation of the International Medical Education Foundation.
“Following the fall of the Soviet Union, Dr. John Wood, the former pastor of First Baptist Church in Waco and the President of John Wood Ministries, Inc., and the International Medical Education Foundation, Inc., answered a call to take the gospel to Ukraine,” Rogers wrote in an email to the Lariat. “In 1992, Dr. Wood began ministering in Ukraine, making the trip every other month to distribute Bibles, Christian literature and build churches. Mr. Keahey learned of [Wood’s] ministry in Ukraine and expressed interest to Dr. Wood for Providence to be their partner.”
In 1997, Wood traveled back to the United States along with the first Ukrainian medical delegates. During their stay in the U.S., the delegates were hosted by Waco families.
In 1999, 24 Providence Hospital physicians and medical professionals representing 11 different specialities and their support team traveled to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, with Dr. Wood, to work alongside Ukrainian physicians and share medical knowledge in matching fields.
Ever since, Ukrainian doctors have traveled to Providence Hospital to learn more about their speciality, while physicians employed at Providence Hospital travel overseas to educate their Ukrainian counterparts, helping to train more than 200 Ukrainian physicians.
Dr. David Hoffman, a general surgeon at Providence hospital, participated in the medical exchange program in 1999.
“The exchange trip travel to Kiev was a fantastic experience. The opportunity to be immersed in a different culture and see different surgical techniques was wonderful. It was great fun to teach laparoscopic techniques to the five surgeons at Hospital Number 3. The people of Kiev were so gracious and incredibly friendly. It was hard to leave our new found friends.”
Sylvia Ferrill, a registered nurse at Providence Hospital and the exchange medical coordinator of the International Medical Education Foundation, traveled to Ukraine with the delegates in 1999.
“Traveling to Ukraine was such a phenomenal experience, and I have such fond memories. It is very fulfilling to work with the exchange teams, matching the physicians with local specialists each time they visit. They are talented physicians and put many things they learn into practice, benefiting their medical community and patients,” Ferrill said.
The efforts of the Providence physicians and staff that went to Kiev did not go unnoticed. Former First Lady Yushchenko became aware of the Providence exchange program and took an interest in it, deciding she wanted to come and thank the staff and members for their help in person.
Wood, who has worked with the Ukrainian exchange program for 21 years, said the program is planning to bring Ukrainian physicians to Waco to be trained by Providence medical specialists and send Providence physicians to Kiev next year to train physicians there.