The Co-Pilot Project (CPP) is an initiative that aims to address the significant deficit in high quality neurosurgical and spine surgery training in Ukraine, a country of 45 million people in eastern Europe. Just as a co-pilot acts as another set of eyes and ears for the pilot, our mission is to send surgeons from North America to mentor and aid Ukrainian surgeons through difficult cases.
As the founder and co-director of CPP, Luke Tomycz MD recently travelled to Ukraine and was able to work with neurosurgeons in the capital city Kyiv for about a week to examine over 100 patients and perform five life-saving brain and spine surgeries. While there, Dr. Tomycz was struck by the significant need to provide training in basic neurosurgical technique. He was particularly impressed by the number of patients with spinal deformities, congenital spinal conditions, and benign tumors who either do not receive any treatment or undergo ineffectual and potentially dangerous operations with surgeons who often lack expertise in such surgeries. The number of spinal trauma cases also seems to have spiked recently with the ongoing military conflict in the eastern provinces of the country.
The overall expected outcome and long-term goal of this initiative would be to raise the bar of neurosurgical training in Ukraine, providing high-quality care to uninsured Ukrainian patients in the process. In the course of three months (May 1, 2017 – July 31, 2017) we expect to perform scores of surgeries (approximately 5-7 per week) and see hundreds of patients in consultation. As the team-lead, Dr.Tomycz plans to support the neurosurgeons at International Neurosurgery Center and other participating centers not only in the OR but also on the wards, and assist in devising and formalizing a program for resident training.
Working with a variety of neurosurgical centers in Kyiv and Lviv, Dr.Tomycz has identified a cohort of motivated and talented surgeons who are hungry for additional instruction and eager for collaboration. Recognizing the limited impact of short term mission trips, our team plans to spend 3-4 months in Ukraine starting in the spring of 2017 with the primary objective of providing training in the surgical treatment of intracranial and spinal disease focusing on the following pathologies: brain tumors, aneurysms and AVMs, congenital and acquired craniocervical deformities, spinal tumors and cysts, syringomyelia, tethered cord syndrome, pediatric and adult scoliosis and kyphosis, and spinal trauma.
In addition to operating, Dr.Tomycz hopes to introduce quality initiatives, promote research and innovation, give didactic and instructional seminars, and help Ukrainian neurosurgeons engage with the global neurosurgical community. In the course of three months, we expect to consult on over 1,000 patients and perform scores of operations. Dr.Tomycz hopes that this three-month session in Ukraine will be the beginning of a career-long collaboration and exchange.
The Co-Pilot team has identified several neurosurgeons and entities in the US and Canada interested in collaboration. All funds collected for the CPP program through Razom would be used to subsidize surgery for indigent patients who cannot pay for surgery as well as to directly assist in the training and education of Ukrainian neurosurgeons.