Educational Observership for Ukrainian Surgeons

Educational Observership for Ukrainian Surgeons

Operation Ukraine Mission Statement

To provide Ukrainian surgeons with concentrated, in-depth teaching and exposure to advanced head and neck reconstructive techniques through hands-on clinical simulations and observation experiences.


Since the beginning of the armed conflict in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, there have been over 14,000 civilians and untold more soldiers injured (OHCHR 2023). Over 98% of these injuries are the result of explosive-type weapons (UN HRMMU 2023). Because of this, the injured of Ukraine are experiencing an incredible burden of devastating head and neck injuries. Unfortunately, the current number of Ukrainian surgeons trained to manage such complex reconstructions cannot meet the urgent need they are facing. Patients are living with debilitating and life-altering injuries resulting in difficulties in eating, drinking, talking, and facial movements. Severe deformities also cause these patients to withdraw socially from families and communities.

To address this need, OU Health has partnered with Face to Face — the humanitarian arm of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons (AAFPRS) — as well as various non-governmental organizations (NGO) such as Razom for Ukraine, INgenius, and Sooner Hope for Ukraine to develop the first academic-based educational observership in head and neck reconstruction for Ukrainian surgeons.

The idea for the Operation Ukraine initiative began through interactions with Ukrainian surgeons during Face to Face’s initial medical missions to western Ukraine. Surgeons from across the United States were, and presently are, performing one-to-two-week trips to Ukraine to treat the most complex head and neck injuries. Despite this, it was quickly realized that these brief trips from foreign surgeons would be only part of the equation, and that a more robust training of local Ukrainian surgeons would be necessary to provide a sustainable and comprehensive solution.

In September 2022, planning began to develop a one-month curriculum that included both observation of techniques in the operating room as well as proctored, hands-on experience in the Clinical Skills and Education lab at the University of Oklahoma.

Multiple groups of Ukrainian surgeons travel to learn complex head and neck reconstructive techniques that would then be used to treat their own civilians and soldiers. In addition, these surgeons would be provided the tools and collaboration needed for them to begin training surgeons back home. Through this organic growth model, we hope to increase the availability and sustainability of complex head and neck reconstructive care to allow patients from all corners of Ukraine experience this life-changing care.

Operation Ukraine at OU Health

Operation Ukraine is a one-month clinical observership in which Ukrainian surgeons with an interest in head and neck reconstruction can visit the University of Oklahoma to observe these advanced techniques in the operating room, as well as complete hands-on cadaver lab learning from our multi-departmental faculty group. This includes members of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery, plastic surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery, and oculoplastics. The focus of the month is on advanced head and neck reconstructive techniques including:

  • Complex scar revisions
  • Management of Level 1 trauma (highest level of trauma care)
  • Local and regional flaps
    • Pectoralis flap
    • Supraclavicular flap
    • Paramedian forehead flap
  • Free tissue transfer with microvascular anastomosis
    • Anterolateral thigh free flap
    • Fibula free flap
    • Radial forearm free flap
    • Scapula and parascapular free flaps
    • Latissimus dorsi free flap
    • “Freestyle” microsurgery

Opportunities to observe other areas of head and neck surgery including management of benign and malignant tumors, rhinology/skull base, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, neurotology, and laryngology are also available for the interested observer.

Through generous donations to Operation Ukraine at OU Health, as well as partnerships with the AAFPRS, Razom for Ukraine, INgenius, and Sooner Hope for Ukraine, financial support is provided for all accepted observers.

Costs covered by the program include:

  • Airline tickets to and from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Rental car (one car per cohort)
  • Housing
  • U.S.-based cell phone with talk/text/data
  • Credentialing fees at OU Health
  • Cadavers, instruments, and lab fees

Costs not covered by the program include:

  • Food
  • Recreational activities outside of the educational program
  • Incidental expenses

Donations to Operation Ukraine at OU Health

Operation Ukraine is 100% funded by our generous donors. Both financial and in-kind donations are accepted. Further information for donating to the project can be found on its giving page.

Companies providing in-kind donations include:

  • Kerecis
  • Leica Microsystems
  • Mizuho Microsurgical Instruments
  • Stryker
  • Accurate Surgical and Scientific Instruments

Applicant Requirements

The Operation Ukraine observership at OU Health is designed for Ukrainian surgeons with a desire to learn advanced head and neck reconstructive techniques. Ideal applicants are surgeons who currently treat patients with complex head and neck injuries and defects on a regular basis. In addition to treating patients, this program hopes to train the future leaders of head and neck reconstruction in Ukraine. Preference will be given to those surgeons in a position to teach other surgeons in Ukraine.

Applicants should be able to demonstrate at least a B1 level of English proficiency. In addition, letters of support from the applicant’s department and hospital may be requested to ensure the surgeon will have the resources necessary to be successful in complex reconstructive techniques upon return to Ukraine.

Interested applicants should contact program director Mark Mims, M.D., at

Our Observers

May 2023

  • Oleksandr Kosenko, M.D., Chernihiv Medical Center of Modern Oncology
  • Andrii Levytskyi, M.D., Kyiv Regional Clinical Hospital
  • Ganna Mykhashula, M.D., Kyiv Regional Clinical Hospital

September 2023

  • Ostap Maksimiv, M.D., Lviv Emergency Hospital
  • Maksym Mashkarynets, M.D., Lviv Emergency Hospital
February 2024

  • Vitalii Panchenko, M.D., Lviv Military Hospital
  • Mykola Sinyuk, M.D., Lviv Military Hospital
  • Igor Fedirko, M.D., Kyiv Military Hospital
  • Oleksandr Prysiazhniuk, M.D., Kyiv Military Hospital

Faculty Profiles

Additional information on faculty members who you will be working with can be found at the following pages:

See how you benefit from OU Health services in the community Learn More
Discover what patient-centered care means for you Learn More