Ukrainian medical students start training at one of UK's top universities after fleeing war-torn country

·3-min read

A group of Ukrainian medical students have been welcomed by one of the UK's top universities to continue their training after fleeing their war-torn country.

The 20 students from the bombarded north-eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv will be given seven weeks of training at the University of Cambridge as part of the programme.

As a result of the war, and the COVID pandemic, most of their education for the last two years has been completed virtually.

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Despite this, after Russia invaded Ukraine back in February, many of them were thrust into hospitals to help treat patients.

One of those was Zaur Badalov, who is now taking part in the university's scheme.

Growing up in Kharkiv, the 22-year-old was forced to flee to western Ukraine after war broke out, and it was there that he continued his studies online, while working in a local hospital.

"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," he said.

"We were all in shock, and then that morning we had injured people coming into the hospital needing help."

After moving, the Kharkiv National Medical University student started working in an emergency department.

"People just needed help from the doctors. So we made it just first aid every time, it didn't matter if it was a civilian or soldiers," he told Sky News.

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As a man, Mr Badalov needed special permission to leave Ukraine in order to continue his training.

"It is a very good opportunity for us because we can take this information and share it with our university and our students," he said.

Cambridge believes it is the first programme of its kind to support Ukrainian medical students in the UK.

The students will be trained at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Royal Papworth Hospital and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.

As part of the course, they will shadow doctors on wards and in clinics and practice key skills, such as physically examining patients.

Student travelled through Russia to get a place

While it is conventional for the university to welcome students from other countries, Dr Jonathan Fuld from Cambridge's medicine department said the group had experienced "extraordinary" circumstances.

"They were dispersed throughout Europe, the men still in Ukraine by law they needed to be supported by Kharkiv to find ways to get their visas back," he said.

"One of our students was actually in occupied territories and made a journey through Russia in order to get a visa that enabled them to come on this placement.

"So on our side of it, there was a fair amount of administration. In the end, all the effort and real challenge to make this happen fell on Kharkiv and the students."

It's important students return to Ukraine, says clinical dean

Many of Ukraine's hospitals and clinics have been destroyed or damaged as a result of the ongoing conflict.

In March, several people were killed after a maternity hospital in Mariupol was reduced to rubble in a Russian airstrike.

While the students will spend almost two months being trained in the UK, the clinical dean at the School of Clinical Medicine, Paul Wilkinson, has said it is important they return to Ukraine.

"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," he said.