Chandler doctor makes a mission of mercy to Ukraine - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler doctor makes a mission of mercy to Ukraine

October 24th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler doctor makes a  mission of mercy to Ukraine
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By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

One trip was all it took for a Chandler doctor.

Dr. Andrew Villa said when you’re exposed to the harsh conditions in other nations, it’s almost impossible not to want to do all you can to help people.

Villa recently returned from a September trip to the war-torn nation. It is the fourth time he has been there. He’s also gone to Africa and Central America, the Philippines and others.

“Once you go, you understand,” Villa said after returning from Ukraine. “I mean, we have nothing to really complain about here. We have our own issues, for sure.

“But, once you go to other parts of the world and see how other people live and the things that they tolerate, or don’t have access to … once you do it, it changes your heart.”

Villa said many of the doctors in Ukraine fled the country when Russia invaded in February. Most of those who didn’t are caring for the troops fighting to retake parts of their nation from Russia.

That leaves a lot of Ukrainian citizens who are not getting basic health care. He and others, including his wife Renee, tried to fill that need by volunteering to see patients for two weeks.

He was there as part of a Global Care Force team. That’s a new name for an organization that was founded as COVID Care Force in 2020. With the pandemic winding down, the doctors who joined forces to help battle the coronavirus are expanding their focus.

The group now wants to bring high-quality medical care to under-resourced communities.

Villa said many of the patients he cared for in Ukraine suffered from what you would expect in a nation at war.

“We did diabetes, hypertension, a lot of depression, PTSD, as you can imagine,” Villa said. “It’s pretty heartbreaking, the stories that you see and hear. What they’ve been through is crazy.”

Villa and others started at the border in Belarus and worked their way down from north to south until they reached Odessa next to the Black Sea.

“We went to areas that were badly affected by the war,” Villa said. “And there were other areas where life has gone on reasonably as normal.”

Many of the patients he saw had not had any medical care available for the past six months. Some needed their prescriptions refilled. Many just needed mental health care to deal with the conflict.

“Depression, PTSD, they just need somebody to talk to,” Villa said. “One of the docs that came was from outside of Albany, New York — family doctor, super awesome guy — and he brought a little meditation sheet, to teach you kind of how to meditate and relax, etc. And so we had it transcribed into Ukrainian and we handed that thing out and taught that hundreds of times.”

Villa said he was unsure if he should bring his wife on this trip.

“I tried to leave her at the Polish border, because I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “We went there with body armor and helmets, just in case.

“We never wore them because we felt reasonably safe. She’s a musician by training, classical musician, but she served as my pharmacist, because when you go, it’s all-hands-on-deck.”

Villa, who specializes in women’s health when in Chandler, said they were well taken care of while working in Ukraine. They stayed at nice places and ate great food.

“I know for years people don’t like when you go to foreign countries and have an American passport,” Villa said. “It was great to have an American passport there. We zoomed through customs and they really are appreciative for what other countries are doing and the fact we show them that we care. I think they really appreciate it.”