For the second time, Ukraine played host to the ‘Face the Future Ukraine’ mission, a collaborative effort involving Canadian and American reconstructive surgeons. This initiative brought global experts together with their Ukrainian colleagues to perform over 30 life-changing plastic surgeries on individuals who bore the scars of war. Among the patients were military personnel from various regions of Ukraine, all sharing a common experience of severe blast injuries to the face and neck.
Meet Andrii Smolenskyi, a 27-year-old who, after volunteering for the front lines at the onset of the war, eventually became the commander of a separate aerial reconnaissance unit. In late May 2023, during one of the missions, he suffered a grievous injury. Andrii lost both arms, his eyes, and partially his hearing.
Andrii has undergone nearly two dozen surgeries, and thanks to the heroic efforts of Ukrainian doctors, his life was miraculously saved. However, a significant scar painfully contracted his face. Surgeons from the ‘Face the Future’ mission took on the task of relieving his pain and enhancing the aesthetics of his face. In a complex, 6-hour surgery, they removed deformed tissue, placed a titanium implant under the eye, transplanted fat tissue and skin from his neck, and prepared his eye for cosmetic implants.
Dr. Peter Adamson, Founder and President of the Face the Future Foundation, described this as an exceptionally challenging case due to the patient’s multiple combined injuries, with most of the facial bones and muscles missing after the injury. He noted that this mission in Ukraine presented the most severe combined cases in their experience and expressed their commitment to returning every six months to assist Ukrainian defenders and train local colleagues.
To perform these unique surgeries, a team of 15 international specialists, including reconstructive surgeons, oculoplastic surgeons, plastic surgeons, otolaryngologists, surgical oncologists, anesthesiologists, and nurses, arrived in Ukraine. They worked alongside and shared their expertise with Ukrainian specialists from Ivano-Frankivsk, Kyiv, and Zaporizhzhia.
The preparation for this mission spanned five months, involving extensive online consultations for patient selection and surgical planning. For many patients, free individual implants were designed and 3D-printed by bioengineers from Materialize to restore the integrity of bones that were fragmented due to injury, said Nataliia Komashko, MD, Head of Ukrainian Association of Endoscopic Head and Neck Surgeries, who led the clinical program from Ukrainian side.
This successful partnership between ‘Face the Future Foundation,’ ‘Razom for Ukraine,’ and ‘Still Strong’ has evolved into a long-term program, demonstrating remarkable results in training and supporting Ukrainian doctors in their professional development. It signifies an extraordinary achievement and outcome that will help Ukrainian doctors contribute to global medicine.
During the two ‘Face the Future Ukraine’ missions, the team of experts successfully restored physical health and aesthetic beauty for over 70 Ukrainians. Importantly, all reconstructive surgeries were provided free of charge to the patients.
These missions also hosted international symposia for surgeons and nurses, allowing specialists from Canada, the U.S., and Ukraine to share their experiences in performing complex reconstructive interventions and the nuances of managing patients with combat injuries. More than 200 surgeons and nearly 300 nurses participated in the symposia.
The Razom Co-Pilot Project has been facilitating the organization of highly qualified doctors’ visits to Ukraine since 2016. With the outbreak of war, medical organizations and teams from the U.S. and Canada approached Razom for support in helping Ukraine. Currently, the Razom Co-Pilot Project provides organizational and financial support to the largest teams in the U.S. and Canada, including ‘Face the Future,’ ‘Face to Face,’ ‘Global Leap Missions,’ and ‘Co-Pilot Neuro.’ Over 100 North American doctors have worked in Ukraine, performing 300 complex surgeries this year alone.
“We understand that it is impossible to help all patients during the short stay of the international team. Therefore, one of the leading goals of Co-Pilot is to train Ukrainian doctors and help them become leaders in their field and save thousands. Each international team conducts educational events: conferences, lectures and consults Ukrainian doctors online. Razom supports the observership for Ukrainian doctors in the U.S.. Only this year, 10 UA doctors had such an opportunity”, said Yuliia Shama, U.S. Co-Pilot Project Lead.
We are immensely grateful to the team of Face the Future Ukraine:
Surgeons Team Peter A. Adamson, Nataliya Biskup, Matthew Brace, Raymond Cho, Jonathan Trites, Priya Kesarwani, Paul Slavchenko
OR Team Jackie Abbott, Bibi Yasin, Janae Weber, Emma Piehl, Khristie Morrell, Luci Heiman, Hanna Robinson
Gail Kapsambelis (videographer)
Advisors Mark Levin, Anthony Brissett, Burke Bradley, Debbie Fritz, Maureen Merchant
The ‘Face the Future Ukraine’ humanitarian program is a joint effort involving organizations such as Face The Future Foundation (Canada), Razom for Ukraine (USA), Still Strong (UA).
We are immensely grateful to all partners and donors:
CF Patients of Ukraine, and the project “Rehabilitation of War Injuries.” organized academic days. The mission received support from Direct Relief, Materialize, STORZ Karl-Storz Ukraine, the Ukrainian Association of Endoscopic Head and Neck Surgery, the Regional Clinical Hospital of the Ivano-Frankivsk Regional Council, Metinvest, Yellow Blue Force Foundation, the Embassy of Switzerland in Ukraine, Ivano-Frankivsk Regional Military Administration, Transmed, CF «Чисті Серця», and Razom.
Photographer: Andrii Sidletskyi