The power of “razom”
When news of the hostile Russian invasion into Ukraine first broke in February 2022, Ukrainian surgeon Dr. Ivanka Nebor was in Canada completing a surgical fellowship at St. Joseph’s Health Care London (St. Joseph’s). But her heart was never far from home, and lessons learned at St. Joseph’s is equipping her with new skills to help her country.
Compelled to do what she could, the head and neck surgeon rallied an elite, global group of surgeons with the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery to mobilize a compassionate medical mission.
That summer, with a vehicle loaded full of supplies, Dr. Nebor and her colleagues crossed the border into the western part of war-torn Ukraine. In five, grueling 15-hour days, the team would complete 31 surgeries giving back victims of civilian combat their ability to eat, talk and breath.
“One man thanked us for our service and, with the stitches still on his face, returned to the fighting,” she recalls.
From a young age, Dr. Nebor was driven to take on challenges with the hope of making a difference. That drive and passion led her to medical school, following in the footsteps of both parents and her older brother, all of whom are practicing in Kyiv.
After completing her education at the Kolomiychenko Institute of Otolaryngology in Kyiv, Dr. Nebor pursued a research fellowship at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. She then discovered the work of highly-esteemed St. Joseph’s otolaryngologists, Dr. Brian Rotenberg and Dr. Leigh Sowerby. She applied and was accepted to St. Joseph’s otolaryngology fellowship, made possible through St. Joseph’s Health Care London Foundation.
Otolaryngology – head and neck surgery - is a medical specialty focused on problems in the head and neck region. Otolaryngologists like Dr. Nebor are trained in both medicine and surgery.
"I’m refining my surgical techniques and learning to mentor residents and ask clinic patients the right questions,” Dr. Nebor says of her St. Joseph’s fellowship experience. “The entire team has been incredible and great to work with. I feel like I am part of the family.”
Despite a busy fellowship, memories of her summer in Ukraine during the war remain vivid for Dr. Nebor. To date, reports indicate more than 8,000 civilians have been killed and more than 13,000 have been injured. The dedicated physician still pictures one man, a 68-year-old shot at close range and unable to speak until the team operated. Another memory is of a young fighter, his face severely damaged by a landmine. Incredibly, the team was able to reconstruct his missing nose, sinus, cheekbone and eye socket.
Although the memories are harrowing, Dr. Nebor is thankful for the surgeons who donated their time, the medical companies who donated supplies and technology, and the committed Ukrainian health professionals working alongside the team to heal, learn and deliver hope.
“This isn’t my last mission of this kind before I return home,” she promises. “This project is about hope and the power of ‘razom’ – a word that means ‘together’ in Ukrainian. The war can’t last forever – together, we can fix what is broken and work for a better future.”
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Fellowships embody every aspect St. Joseph’s Health Care London’s mission to pursue excellence in care, research and education. With donor support, St. Joseph’s can train the next generation of surgeons, ensuring not only better outcomes for future patients here at home but also around the world. For more information, please contact: 519-646-6082 or email @email.