Saturday, November 11, 2017

Gwinnett Rotary Clubs Host Russian Doctors

My heart is full as I write about my experience hosting two Russian doctors – a neurologist and an oncologist - in my home for the past four days. Although we were not able to speak the same language, we were able to communicate through gestures and a handy app that instantly translated the written word. How did this experience come to pass?

In an effort to build bridges and friendships across the world, Rotary District 6910 hosted a team of nine Russian physicians and a translator who wished to learn about medicine in America – how medical students are taught and how patient care is delivered. After visiting Gainesville and Athens, team members, who represented multiple specialties including radiology, pediatrics, dermatology, neurology, oncology and others, were transported to the home of Rotarian Thomas Shepherd, president of Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville. Tom and his wife, Linda, prepared a southern feast fit for royalty. Gwinnett Rotarians who had volunteered to host the families in their homes, Al and Beverly Hombroek, Mike and Margie Alexander, Wayne and Beth Sikes, Beatty and Paula McCaleb and Barbara Myers, were also invited.

Thanks to the Hayes Automotive Group, a 15-passenger van was available to transport the Russian citizens around Gwinnett and even into Atlanta for sightseeing. Sunday featured tours of the CNN Center, the World of Coca-Cola and dinner at The Varsity. On Monday, the contingency visited Georgia Campus – Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (GA-PCOM) where they learned about how medicine, pharmacy, physician assistant studies, biomedical sciences and physical therapy are taught to the 1,100 student population.

The translator wasn’t necessary when the physicians toured the college’s Anatomy Lab which features several Mondopads, touchscreens for learning. In addition, the Simulation Center with high fidelity mannequins, a surgical suite, trauma bay and birthing area captured the interest of the physicians. The Russian doctors were familiar with the benefits of osteopathic manipulative medicine and paid rapt attention to a demonstration by Dr. Regina Fleming.

A stop at the Concussion Institute housed at Gwinnett Medical Center in Duluth was a highlight of the visit, along with information about rehabilitative services and bariatric surgery. The physicians indicated they would like to implement some of what they learned about the American delivery of health care in Russia.

Rotarians with Russian doctors at Gwinnett Medical Center

Dinner at Dominick’s in downtown Lawrenceville was a hit Monday evening and Tuesday morning featured more conversation via the handy cell phone app and breakfast with the universal connector of coffee. Group members admitted that their “impressions of the United States before arriving were misguided and that going forward, regardless of what they hear on the news, they’ll know firsthand that Americans, especially Rotarians and Georgians, are a warm and friendly people.”

The Gwinnett experience took the combined efforts of the Lawrenceville, South Gwinnett and Gwinnett Rotary clubs. A certificate from the group stated, “We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to you for your hospitality and great contribution to Russian-American relations…This is true dedication to world peace and mutual understanding. Thank you for your friendship which helps to bring our two great countries closer together.”

You never know what to expect when you say “yes” to new experiences, but most often the rewards are so much better than expected. Who knew? An invitation to St. Petersburg was issued and several Gwinnettians may go as the guests of our new Russian friends.

-Submitted by Barbara Myers, President-Elect, Rotary Club of South Gwinnett

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