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Miami surgeon volunteers in Ukraine to help physicians treat trauma patients

Dr. Enrique Ginzburg stands with a group of physicians and health care providers at Lviv Clinical Emergency Hospital.
Enrique Ginzburg, M.D.
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Dr. Enrique Ginzburg stands with a group of physicians and health care providers at Lviv Clinical Emergency Hospital.

Dr. Enrique Ginzburg, a surgeon with a passion for helping other doctors around the world care for trauma patients, recently went to Lviv in Ukraine to mentor physicians whose patients have suffered injuries during the war with Russia.

A surgeon in Miami has a passion for helping other doctors around the world care for trauma patients. Dr. Enrique Ginzburg recently went to Lviv in Ukraine to mentor doctors whose patients have suffered injuries during the war with Russia.

Ginzburg spoke about his experience to WLRN health care reporter Verónica Zaragovia.

Below is a transcription of his story.

My name is Enrique Ginzburg. I am the trauma medical director at Jackson South Ryder Trauma Center, and I am a professor of surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

This was not my first time with Global Surgical and Medical Support Group – GSMSG. It was founded by Aaron Epstein. He brings civilian doctors, nurses, [and] teams along with security operations forces to conflict zones, to provide security and to provide training in medical care, like medics. Right before COVID, I went with him to Iraq, to Kurdistan, to help the Kurds and found it to be a very purposeful experience. At that time, I had also taken my wife, who’s an occupational therapist, to supply care with his group and loved it. When Ukraine was invaded, I gave him a call and I said, ‘Are you going to be involved in care? Can I join you?' And he said, ‘Get yourself a flak jacket, a helmet, and a gas mask and come on over.'

We then started the program of going to Lviv regional, it’s like the large Jackson Memorial Hospital for that whole region.

Patients — civilian and military — get stabilized and then brought in by trains. We consulted on several of the patients that were civilian. Two other surgeons that were with me – Dr. John Holcomb, along with [Dr.] Steven Wolf – we did an assessment of what they need, what they don't need, how they're doing things with triaging when there's a mass casualty in their hospital. They do heart transplants. They do lung transplants. Their surgeons are very well trained, but they're young. They’ve never been in this type of situation.

We just started our first telemedicine consultation with 20 of their surgeons.

When you do go there, and it's not on TV, and it's in front of you, it obviously has a greater impact when you see innocent civilians involved in mass destruction, which unfortunately is the result of war.

Because of our experience and our numbers at the Ryder Trauma Center and Ryder Trauma Center South, the military has its presence for training their fast teams, which go off to conflict zones – they train with us here. That's been part of our program since the first Gulf War, and they rotate their teams to gain experience before they go off.

Our experience is not combat with regards to the large mines or the RPGs — the rocket-propelled grenades — or the missiles with huge amounts of shrapnel. Dr. Holcomb's specialty is in blood transfusions. So he was able to get them to switch to whole blood, which is what most of the country is doing here in the U.S. When you give blood to the blood bank, they usually take all the blood. They spin it down into different components. When there's significant injuries, and a patient needs transfusions, we would do a mass transfusion. Around the country, we have found that it's better to just have whole blood. The patients do better.

One of the tragic aspects of this is realizing that it's the civilians who really are the ones who suffer the most. We’ve had other surgeons from around the country who have great interest to volunteer. The next five months, the doctors doing this are doing this for free. I paid my whole way because we felt this was the right thing to do.

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Verónica Zaragovia