A blood cancer specialist, who fled Ukraine during the war, is now helping with an international research project at Epworth HealthCare, as she works towards gaining accreditation to practice in Australia.
Haematologist Arina Martynchyk worked in the in the National Cancer Institute in Kyiv. The Bone Marrow Department was preparing to commence allogenic stem cell transplants, when the Russia invasion occurred on 24 February, 2022.
On that day, Arina first heard about the start of the war from overseas friends.
“I found out what was happening from my friends in the United States,” Arina said.
“I woke up to messages from them, asking what was happening. I started reading the news online and then heard some explosions not too far from my apartment building.”
Arina said when the bombing began, the hospital where she was working had inpatients who had just received cancer treatment.
“We had three patients there at the time, who had undergone bone marrow transplantation and they couldn’t leave the hospital due to their medical condition.”
“We decided my husband would take our daughter to the west of Ukraine near the Ukrainian-Polish border to be safe and I went to the hospital and stayed there, as it was safer than going home.”
Arina, as well as other doctors, nurses and the haematological and surgical patients stayed at the hospital for almost two weeks. “We performed an array of medical procedures including stem cell transfusion for autologous bone marrow transplants. The procedures were done in the basement due to the frequent air raid alarms.”
When the patients were well enough to be discharged, Arina travelled to the west of Ukraine to reunite with her husband and daughter.
A few months later, her husband received a job offer in Australia and they moved to Melbourne.
One of Arina’s international colleagues introduced her to Professor Miles Prince, Director of Molecular Oncology and Cancer Immunology at the Epworth Centre for Immunotherapies and Snowdome Laboratories. Prof Prince organised the observership program for her. As a volunteer, Arina was shadowing haematologists on ward rounds and in the clinic at Epworth Freemasons. She has also been assisting with clinical research undertaken by the Epworth Molecular Oncology and Cancer Immunology team.
Professor Miles Prince said Arina is contributing in a meaningful way.
“Arina was a rising star in haematology in Ukraine and her career was cut short because of the conflict,” Prof Prince said.
“Although it’s a tragedy that she can’t treat her patients in Ukraine, patients in the future will hopefully receive better treatment as a result of the research Arina is assisting with.”
Arina says people in Melbourne have been incredibly supportive.
“A lot of wonderful people in Melbourne have expressed their support.”
Arina plans to stay in Melbourne for at least three years, using the time to advance her knowledge and skills in specific areas of interest including novel methods of treatment, which are not currently available in Ukraine.
To show your support, you can donate to several reputable international foundations, such as the Charitable Foundation SMART Medical Aid, who support medical staff in the Ukraine by providing much-needed medical equipment.