August 6, 2014: Bryce Bludevich ’17
He can’t be more than 30 years old, and yet he has been working as a doctor for close to 10 years. His name is Mikhail Protopopov and he is one of my many mentors here in Kazan, Russia. When I first met him in passing he seemed stressed, like any young doctor, but he was so welcoming and almost as excited to meet us as Pierre Galea and I were to be shadowing him.
On our first day we met him at 3:30 p.m. to begin his 17 hour night shift in the Republic Hospital, the largest hospital in Kazan. He met us in the lobby and whisked us away to change our shoes, something all doctors, nurses, and even visitors of the hospital do upon entrance to the wards. Pierre and I followed Mikhail like little ducklings as we collected a list of patients to observe overnight. Then we quickly reported to the admitting ward to see more patients. This is Mikhail’s pattern every night shift. First, he reports to different wards, collecting patients to monitor, as he is one of only two internal medicine doctors on for the entire night. Once he has rounded, and gotten the list of other doctors who are on, he reports to the admitting ward and begins seeing more patients.
He quickly tells us about each patient, while patiently waiting for us to complete basic physical exams. We watch him comfort patients and explain basic treatment plans. I watch him comfort grandmothers and chat with family members, really making sure that they understand what is happening. His compassion and patience with his patients is touching.
He explains to us that the biggest hurdle for doctors in Russia is patient compliance. With little access to primary care doctors, most patients end up at the hospitals months later with exacerbated injuries and conditions. Some people are admitted just to ensure complete compliance. This was shocking to me, because healthcare in Russia is essentially free of charge.
While I see Mikhail working as hard as possible for his patients on a daily basis, I also know that doctors in Russia are grossly underpaid and most hold multiple jobs just to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. He currently works five different jobs, including working for two private clinics, Kazan State Medical University, and as a translator for a scientific journal. I know he isn’t the only doctor with many jobs, as one young female doctor I met works as a dancer at a club and others work multiple jobs while completing their Ph.D’s. The idea of working not just one job, but potentially up to five is daunting for anyone, but Mikhail and the other doctors I have met here see it as a way of life. The young doctors that Pierre and I have been working with are incredibly hard working and focused.
Since it is summer here in Kazan, and the rest of the northern hemisphere, many of the people in Kazan are actually on vacation. Our lab advisors continue to work through the vacation months so that we may learn new lab techniques and the basic science behind their research.
While here I have really noticed the kindness of the people involved in our program. Many of them are not paid to host us, and take time out of their days to teach us. I am so grateful for everything that they have done for Pierre and me, and hope that one day I will be able to return the favor.
Location: Kazan, Russia
Length of Stay: 7 weeks
Name of Program: Global Health Elective with Dr. Majid Sadigh (UVM College of Medicine/Western Connecticut Health Network)