Ukrainian medical students head to Cambridge to help complete vital training

Vira Lavryk, Kateryna Ausheva, Zaur Badalov, Serhii Alkhimov (Credit: University of Cambridge
Vira Lavryk, Kateryna Ausheva, Zaur Badalov, Serhii Alkhimov Credit: University of Cambridge

A Ukrainian medical student awarded a medal for treating the sick while forced to live for months underground after Russia invaded his country is continuing his studies in the UK. Serhii Alkhimov, 21, spent four months living an underground train station in Kharkiv as the city was heavily bombed by Russian forces. He had to care for many ill people without support and was awarded a medal for his services by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky. Now he has been given special permission to travel to Cambridge, along with 19 other medical students, to carry out clinical placements at hospitals around Cambridge.

Serhii Alkhimov on his placement Credit: ITV Anglia

“I had military medical experience, so it wasn't as hard for me as it might have been,” he said. He lived in the station alongside 1,000 other people, but said he was just glad he was able to help people.

"My first medical office was in a train car. I slept there, I ate there and I treated the patients there. I think it was the practice for me, If I didn't help people there, nobody would help them.

“I didn't get a lot of sleep. Most of the people I treated had chronic illnesses and couldn't get help anywhere else. I was glad to help, and save two or three lives." Another student who helped treat those injured in the war was Zaur Badalov. The 22-year-old said: "I was staying at a hospital in Kharkiv on the day the invasion happened; I was the first one to notice the windows shaking and woke the others. We were all in shock, and then that morning we had injured people coming into the hospital needing help."

Vira Lavryk, 22, said she never expected to be in the UK, but was looking forward to taking her skills back to help her country.

"I am from a small town, it is a huge opportunity to improve my skills and gain some knowledge and take it back to Ukraine and to help soldiers and civilians to be healthy."

Ukrainian emergency service personnel work outside a damaged building following shelling in Kharkiv. Credit: AP

It is hoped the group’s time in Cambridge will help them return home to help the Ukrainian health service. Daria Shliakhova, students' mobility coordinator at Kharkiv National Medical University, said: "We have such an intense situation in Ukraine; we really need good doctors with good practical skills, who can help our people and save their lives.

"It's a priority, to prepare and give our students all the best we can, and so the clinical placements in Cambridge are very important.

Zaur Badalov, Serhii Alkhimov and Vira Lavryk: Three of 20 students who’ve just finished their first week of induction Credit: ITV News Anglia

"Many of our hospitals and clinics have been damaged or destroyed by the war, and our people are doing everything possible to provide medical services. “Doing our job now is quite challenging, still we are doing our best to provide our students with a high-quality educational process despite the lasting military actions.

"We would like to express our gratitude to Cambridge for supporting Kharkiv National Medical University and all Ukrainians."

The project has been made possible through a twinning partnership between the University of Cambridge and Kharkiv National Medical University .

Paul Wilkinson, clinical dean at the University's School of Clinical Medicine, said: "This [programme] is action-orientated; it's about packing as much as possible into seven weeks, everything essential that will allow Kharkiv National Medical University to progress students which otherwise, because of the circumstances, it just couldn't. “Ukrainian medical schools don't want to lose students and doctors who will be essential to rebuilding health services in the country after the conflict."

The students on the programme, most of whom have been displaced by the conflict, are in their final two years of medical training. Because of the war, and before that the COVID-19 pandemic, they have missed out on essential practical teaching.

Following the placements, the students will receive a learning portfolio to support their continuing medical training with Kharkiv National Medical University.

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