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Finding hope amidst war

In February 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine, Dr. Oksana Marchenko reached out to her fellow women in cardiology for support. She shared the reality of life during the early days of the war and that she had evacuated to the United Kingdom with the help of a family member. Dr. Julia Grapsa, who is based in the UK and had met Dr. Marchenko while participating in the Women As One CLIMB Structural imaging program, was the first to respond. Without a second thought, she opened her doors, enabling Dr. Marchenko to have a safe place to settle in a new country.

Finding work was a priority for Dr. Marchenko, but it felt daunting, if not impossible. On fleeing Ukraine, she was forced to sacrifice her successful cardiology practice at the Ukrainian Children’s Cardiac Center and her Ph.D. research. Getting back into clinical practice would not be straightforward, as she would need to take multiple exams for her medical qualifications to be recognized outside of Ukraine. This meant that clinical research offered the best opportunity to obtain work.

She found the Researchers at Risk Fellowships from the British Academy and consulted with Dr. Grapsa about the best way to apply. Dr. Grapsa subsequently reached out to Professor Michael Marber at Kings College London, who proved pivotal in supporting them through the application process. The application was successful, meaning Dr. Marchenko could move into fellowship housing and continue the research she was forced to abandon. She also now works as a Research Fellow in Cardiac MRI alongside Dr. Pier-Giorgio Masci at Kings College London and will soon have an article published in the European Heart Journal.

“Julia is a huge support for me; my current success would not be possible without her. For now, I can’t be a practician doctor in the UK because Ukraine is not in Europe, so it’s not very easy. Now, of course, the research work is amazing for me because it provides me with a salary and a proper job.”

Dr. Marchenko

Looking to the future

As Dr. Marchenko looks ahead to her future, it remains uncertain whether she should plan for a long-term future in the UK or Ukraine. Dr. Grapsa continues to reach out to her network to secure Dr. Marchenko’s next position. While the ideal scenario is for her to be a practicing cardiologist, they are considering all options. The pair are also working with a team from Belgium on a mitral valve project, which they feel holds promise for a strong publication.

“It’s very difficult for me to decide which way will be better. We all hoped that the war would have stopped. But for now, it’s not optimistic, so I need to continue my life journey.”

Dr. Marchenko

While she continues to wait for resolution of the war, Dr. Marchenko serves as the cardiology expert on the Advisory Board at the Ukrainian Medical Association of the UK (UMAUK). UMAUK works to support displaced Ukrainian healthcare professionals in the UK through education, networking, and professional opportunities. Women As One was delighted to invite Dr. Marchenko to share her work with UMAUK at the Women in Cardiology Networking event at this year’s ESC Congress in Amsterdam.

“In the past, you would see women trying to extract other women. Women As One came with this spirit: ‘Come together, support each other; we are here to support women in cardiology.’ I don’t know how Oksana would be now if we hadn’t been brought together by Women As One.”

Dr. Grapsa

The women in cardiology network supported Dr. Marchenko through an unimaginably difficult period in her life. Women As One is proud to bring together this community of talented women physicians who support and uplift one another as we strive for equality. Join the community.

Julia Grapsa, MD, PhD, is a Consultant Cardiologist at Guys and St Thomas NHS Hospitals Trust, United Kingdom.

Oksana Marchenko, MD, is a Research Fellow at the British Academy and a cardiologist at the Ukrainian Children’s Cardiac Center, Ukraine.

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