Surgical procedures taught in Brighton are being used to treat frontline Ukrainian soldiers injured in the bloody war with Russia.
Gianluca Colucci, a senior lecturer at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), has been to Ukraine at least twice since Russia invaded in February last year.
The consultant surgeon also works at Worthing Hospital, part of University Hospitals Sussex, the NHS trust that runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital, in Brighton.
He has been working with the Smart Medical Aid charity, delivering ambulances and medical supplies, carrying out medical evacuations and providing teaching and training.
One of his life-saving projects involved creating 10 medical imaging “phantoms”. The phantoms are stand-ins for human tissues to ensure that systems and methods for imaging the human body are operating correctly.
He took the models to Ukraine and trained local medics in Kharkiv so that they could then use the surgical techniques to save the lives of soldiers wounded in battle.
While most of the charity’s resources are deployed to support the war casualties, there are other unmet medical needs which are non-war related – and these are what he now wants to address.
He said: “We have to try to look at other areas of medicine or treatment that are not being met because of the war and create a little bit of normality away from the war – hard as that can be.
“This is why I created Project IOLE (Improving Outcomes in Laparoscopy by Education). I want to help to establish a formal teaching programme to support the development of laparoscopic surgery in Ukraine.
“As a first event I will lead a team of five colorectal surgeons from the UK who will run a five-day laparoscopic course in the regional Hospital of Lutsk in November 2023.
“The standard of the course we created has been recognized by the Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland and by the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
“The first two days we will provide a basic laparoscopic course for surgical trainees, while the last three days we will provide a masterclass of laparoscopic colorectal surgery, with live operating.
“Nicola and Katie, two female surgeons who will be part of the faculty, will also run a parallel session on the role of woman in surgery,
“We aim to support civilian needs and try to bring a bit of normality to the doctors who have been overwhelmed by the needs brought by the war – and the added element of helping in developing keyhole surgery in the Ukraine.
“Laparoscopic surgery is used on the frontline but, due to the needs of the war, all the ‘normal treatments’ were left behind.
“This is why we need to try to help in supporting cancer surgery, the main focus of the course. While the war is still raging, there are all the necessities that a normal population has.
“People still have cancer and need treatment, even during the war. And this is a war that has been now going on for almost two years.”
The surgeon added: “This project is very close to my heart even from the name. IOLE was my mother’s name. She was an active Red Cross volunteer and an example for many.
“I would be grateful for any support that can help us deliver this project and enable us to continue to provide support in Ukraine.
“It costs a lot of money so we are still fundraising and people can donate via Just Giving. We are so grateful for the funds raised so far.”