Ukrainian Surgeons Trained, Mentored at OU Health Using Groundbreaking Technology to Treat War Injuries

  • Category: News
  • Posted On:
Ukrainian Surgeons Trained, Mentored at OU Health Using Groundbreaking Technology to Treat War Injuries

OU Health is spearheading a first-of-its-kind initiative to bring Ukrainian surgeons to the United States for training in facial plastic surgery reconstruction. The training is designed to address the urgent demand for specialized surgeons capable of treating severe war-related facial and neck injuries in Ukraine by offering hands-on instruction and use of innovative technology.

Working with the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, OU Health facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon Mark Mims, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery at The University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, has led the initiative to develop an academic-based educational observership in head and neck reconstruction for foreign Ukrainian surgeons. Dr. Mims specializes in surgical and non-surgical cosmetic and reconstructive techniques of the face, head, and neck.

Operation Ukraine is offered multiple times a year and includes both observation of techniques in the operating room as well as hands-on experience in the Clinical Skills Education and Testing Center lab on The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences campus. In addition, visiting surgeons are provided with tools needed to begin training other surgeons in Ukraine.

OU Health is the only academic medical center in the U.S. providing this type of advanced training. Since the beginning of 2023, OU Health has hosted three groups of surgeons from three different cities in Ukraine. The latest Winter 2024 cohort arrived in February and was comprised of four military surgeons who staff some of the busiest tertiary referral centers for the Ukrainian military in Kyiv and L’viv.

“A lot of our patients require reconstructive surgery and microvascular surgery to recover from all the wounds after the huge mine blast injury or gunshots,” said Mykola Sinyuk, M.D., one of the visiting Ukrainian surgeons from Lviv Military Hospital.

Guided by OU Health’s multidisciplinary team, Ukrainian surgeons spend a month acquiring the skills necessary to treat both civilian and military casualties. They receive comprehensive training in various surgical specialties including plastics; oral and maxillofacial surgery; ear, nose, and throat services (ENT); and oculoplastics. Additionally, the Winter 2024 cohort of Ukrainian surgeons were gifted Ohana One Smart Glasses with live-streaming capabilities that will allow for year-round mentor mentee relationships and consultation on active cases abroad.

The Smart Glasses provide portable high-quality viewing capabilities that allow Ukrainian surgeons to perform complex surgeries in their home country while getting real-time guidance and support from OU Health surgeons. Because the smart glasses are compact, they are easily shared with colleagues, not limiting their use to just one location or operating room.

“We are breaking barriers to advancing surgical education in low-middle-income-countries (LMICs) though technology partners such as TeleVU and NGO partners such as Dr. Mims and Operation Ukraine at OU Health,” said Marchelle Sellers, executive director of Ohana One Surgical Aid & Education. “We are continuously inspired by the innovation and dedication of surgeons such as Dr. Mims, who commit their time and energy to providing mentorship and surgical support to countries that need it the most. We look forward to this opportunity in advancing access to remote surgical training in the Ukraine, ultimately improving the standard of patient care.”

Since the onset of the conflict in Ukraine in February 2022, over 14,000 civilians and numerous soldiers have suffered debilitating head and neck injuries, predominantly from explosive-type weapons. However, the number of Ukrainian surgeons trained to manage such complex reconstructions falls short, leaving many patients with severe deformities and difficulties in eating, drinking, talking, and facial movements.

“The ultimate goal for Operation Ukraine Health is to allow the Ukrainian surgeons to train their own future generations,” Mims said. “Once we have a base cohort there that knows how to do these techniques, then they will be able to train other surgeons and hopefully we can fade into the background and let Ukrainians take care of Ukrainians.”

The training and the Ohana One Smart Glasses prove to be invaluable to the success of Ukrainian surgeons.

“It’s really important for us as physicians to reach out to our colleagues in other countries who may have a need to offer whatever aid we can so they can better take care of their patients,” Mims said. “This is part of our mission as physicians, and also part of our mission at OU Health in order to take better care of patients not only here in Oklahoma, but also all around the world.”

Operation Ukraine is 100% funded by generous donors. Other organizations, including Kerecis and Razom for Ukraine, have also facilitated the effort.

Learn more about the effort or to donate.

Ohana One
Ohana One is a nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating high-quality surgical and anesthesia programs in developing areas around the world. We promote collaboration between organizations with similar goals and open pathways for healthcare providers to volunteer their career expertise. Our work is not limited to single mission trips, but to establishing long-term sustainable surgical training programs utilizing mentor relationships and advanced technology, including smart glasses through our Surgical Sight program. In doing so, we work alongside surgical providers to undertake increasingly more complex cases with the goal of elevating and expanding safe self-sustaining surgical care in areas that need it most. For more information, please visit