'America is an opportunity to become a professional': how a Russian surgeon performs unique operations in the USA
Vadim Gushchin, a practicing oncologist surgeon and director of two oncology clinics in Baltimore, Maryland. Vadim was able not only to continue his medical education in the United States, but also to become a famous and respected specialist. He told his story Voice of America.
During long operations, you need to know not only your strengths, but also your weaknesses. For example, you need to be in good physical shape, because even a slight back pain can lead to the fact that you will make the wrong decisions. In difficult situations, I ask either my partners or my assistants to give me advice. I need a fresh thought, a fresh look at the situation and it helps a lot.
I work as an oncologist surgeon at the Mercy Clinic in Baltimore. We have a private surgical practice, mainly we deal with oncological diseases. By position, I am the director of gastrointestinal oncology and the director of the melanoma center. This is working with other doctors from our oncology center, conducting scientific work and training other doctors.
I perform unique operations for peritoneal carcinomatosis, as well as do other operations, including using the Da Vinci robot. In my experience, patients recover twice as fast as after laparoscopic surgery.
In our practice, 3 is an oncologist surgeon, but they all work separately. Basically, we work with surgeon assistants, their role is to help the surgeon in the operating room, to guide the patient in the ward, and they and we will see patients in the clinic when we take outpatients. In the operating room, we are helped by the operating sister, who submits the tools, organizes the operating room so that we have the necessary medicines, tools, so that everything works. We also have an anesthetist who gives anesthesia during surgery and monitors the patient’s safety during surgery.
When we do planned operations - and surgical oncology implies mainly such - in the operating room there should not be a stressful situation. Everyone knows their place, everyone knows what to do, each member of the team has sufficient professionalism so that stressful situations do not arise.
I was born and raised in Moscow, moved to the USA when I was 26 years old. I just graduated from a medical institute and surgical residency then. The idea was to enter a residency and finish his medical education in the United States of America. For me it was an absolutely unattainable cinematic dream, I doubted that I could ever realize it, but it happened.
After graduating from a medical institute in Russia, I worked for 2 of the year, receiving the specialization of a general surgeon. There was a very interesting contrast with the American clinic. In America, as it is written in textbooks, as we are taught in tests, this is exactly what happens in real life. There are no differences, do not forget about what you were taught, and with the beginning of your professional activity, do everything differently.
I arrived in Chicago, where my wife’s relatives lived, after about 1,5 of the year we moved to Philadelphia, where I began my surgical residency at the University of Pennsylvania. I studied there for a year, and the next 5 years of my residency I went to Washington. In the 2 year of my specialization in surgical oncology, I was in Buffalo. After that I came to Baltimore to work.
On Friday, we usually have meetings of our scientific department, we invite other doctors there: gynecologists-oncologists, chemotherapists, medical oncologists, and discuss our new projects. Our scientific work is very dear to me - all this was done with my own hands, doctors are not paid money for this, but without it our practical activity in such a volume and at such a level is impossible. Our research team often includes young doctors from other countries. Since my partner Armando is from Colombia, I am from Russia, it is not surprising that young doctors come from these countries.
Baltimore is crowded with medical facilities and there are a large number of specialists in the field that interests me - in surgical oncology and in oncology in general. This is a city that gives me access to what I love. I love music: we often go to concerts in Washington, to opera in New York, I try to use all the opportunities that life gives in this unusual place.
The day starts early enough, the alarm rings at 5 hours and I'm going for a run, because I need to maintain my physical shape. There are few cars, the environment is green, there are no people, so you can wake up, think about your affairs for the coming day, listen to a lecture or podcast. Twice a week I go to the gym to be in good shape. Then to 7-7: 30 in the morning I’m going to work.
Every year at the end of September, patients from all over the United States - I think from every state - come to Baltimore to show us that they are not only alive, but also physically active, but they also come for the main fundraising event of the year, to raise funds to continue scientific work. Doctors act as invited people, we do not organize this - the patients themselves do it. Moreover, we must report on how we spent these funds, tell us at which conferences we attended, how many articles were written, how many patients participated in a scientific research funded by the event. For every cent we are responsible. We see familiar faces, it's nice to know that patients are alive and well. A lot of memories, hugs - this is a pleasant event.
The idea to create an educational project in Russia did not come to me right away. I returned from one of the conferences from Russia, and the head of the private foundation said that he was recruiting students who were given scholarships and they were studying at one of the best oncological institutions in Russia in St. Petersburg. From such an unexpected answer “yes, let's do something, maybe” it turned into a big project, where I and my Russian-speaking colleagues participate. The project soon became known as the Higher School of Oncology; it is a project of the on-line training of Russian oncologists at the moment. The goal of this project is to create a nucleus of oncologists who could represent modern western type oncology in Russia. Today, 60 young doctors are involved in it, this is our fifth year.
My biggest dream is to bring a residency education system in Russia. I don’t know if it is possible or not, but this is my biggest dream. My task is to expand this project so that it functions even in my absence, and attracting other teachers is one of the main tasks.
In America, I am attracted by the opportunity to become a professional. In fact, what I'm doing is like joining a squad of astronauts. About the same number of people in the world do what I do. Of course, I do not regret that I came here, including due to the fact that I have such an opportunity with my American education.
I come to work every time with joy and desire - as I understand it, this is very rare. I don’t remember a single day when I was not interested, did not want to come to work. Even when you go in the middle of the night to operate on a patient with a complication, I still want to do this. There is no such thing: here, again, we have to go to work ... Not once. So far, so I think life has been a success.
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