Advancing Women’s Health Care in Ukraine: Insights from Dr. Irena Karanetz and Dr. Alina Andriiv

The Current State of Women’s Health Care in Ukraine

Dr. Irena Karanetz, a renowned New York City plastic surgeon, provides an eye-opening assessment of the current state of women’s health care in Ukraine. Originally from Ukraine, Dr. Karanetz moved to Chicago at the age of 15 and trained in plastic surgery in New York. Through her connection toRazom, she joined the Face the Future Team of facial reconstructive surgeons in 2023, and has since participated in two medical trips to Ukraine. A dedicated member of the Ukrainian Medical Association of North America (UMANA), Dr. Karanetz is passionate about women’s health, particularly post-mastectomy breast reconstruction, and is committed to improving healthcare in her homeland. During her work with the Face the Future team in the Ivano-Frankivsk hospital, she had a chance to research cancer breast reconstruction options available for women in Ukraine and was inspired to bring to them her knowledge and expertise in this field.

“Public medicine has significant flaws,” Dr. Karanetz observes. “For instance, there might be only one mammogram machine available in an entire city, leading to months-long waits for cancer diagnoses.” She highlights the disparity between public and private healthcare facilities, noting that advanced treatments like implants for breast reconstruction are often unavailable in socialized medicine, creating a significant gap in care.

Dr. Alina Adriiv, the Medical Director of the Prykarpattia Oncology Center in Ivano-Frankivsk, shares these concerns. Dr. Adriiv, who has been working in oncology since 2010, previously served as an associate professor and head of the hormone-dependent tumors department at the oncology faculty. She holds a Candidate of Medical Sciences degree and has completed numerous international internships in the U.S., Israel, and across Europe.

Envisioning a Better Future

Both doctors envision a future when Ukrainian healthcare is significantly bolstered by international collaboration and the adoption of advanced medical techniques. Dr. Karanetz emphasizes the importance of training and equipping younger doctors to overcome the current limitations, such as lack of equipment and treatments, and seize future opportunities. Her efforts have included substantial donations of medical supplies, amounting to $100,000, to support breast reconstruction.

Dr. Adriiv shares this optimistic outlook. Her primary focus is not just on improving survival rates but also on enhancing the quality of life for women undergoing breast cancer treatment. “It’s important to support women not only physically but also psychologically,” she asserts. Dr. Adriiv aims to ensure that treatment guidelines are rigorously adhered to, reducing disparities in the quality of care.

The Role of Medical Conferences

A key highlight of their partnership was the organization of a major Breast Cancer Symposium in Ivano-Frankivsk. This event, the first of its scale in Prykarpattia, was a significant milestone for both doctors. Despite challenges such as securing sponsorships and dealing with limited state support, the symposium was a success.

It was Dr. Karanetz’s dream to hold an event like the Breast Cancer Symposium in Ukraine. With support from Dr. Adriiv, Dr. Natalia Komashko, and the CF Patients of Ukraine, she was able to realize this dream last spring, by combining her participation in the Face the Future medical trip with the symposium. The symposium featured live surgeries and presentations from leading oncologists and oncologic surgeons, offering invaluable learning experiences. Participants described it as a crucial platform for demonstrating new techniques and fostering professional growth among young surgeons.

Dr. Adriiv, who spearheaded the organization of the symposium, shares her experience: “The journey was incredibly challenging due to funding issues, but the outcome was rewarding. Many leading oncologists and surgeons participated, and the event was a significant step towards improving breast cancer care in Ukraine.” Her extensive network and international experience were instrumental in bringing together top professionals for this collaborative effort.

Written by Stephania Korenovsky

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