A Brooklyn doctor embarked Monday night on a humanitarian mission to Ukraine, where he’ll join a 10-person team to provide medical equipment and training at a vulnerable spot on the country’s border.
“We need to neutralize hatred from the oppressor with humanitarian love,” Dr. Conrad Fischer, a Brookdale University Hospital infectious disease specialist, told Brooklyn Paper.
After more than 40 days of the ongoing Russian invasion, approximately 1,417 people have been killed, and another 2,038 have been injured, according to the United Nations Human Rights Watch. More than 4 million citizens — mostly women and children — 205,000 non-Ukrainians have fled the eastern European country after Russia’s first move. But, half a million Ukrainians have since returned to the dire territory, according to the High Commissioner for Refugees — which has dubbed the war in Ukraine Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.
Fischer is affiliated with seven medical centers in New York, including Bellevue Hospital. He is the associate chief of medicine for educational activities at SUNY Downstate School of Medicine and an award-winning educator who prepares med students for the United States Medical Licensing Examination. He is also a husband and a father of two.
“They are important, but the other children in Ukraine are important, too,” said Fischer. “Brooklyn is a very multicultural place, and we can’t just care about our own. There is a very large Russian and Ukrainian community here and they are hurting from not knowing where their families are, from fear of what our society here will do to them or to their businesses because of what is going on. We have to do more than just feel bad for them.”
Fischer decided to join relief efforts on Feb. 24, the day Russian forces started to invade Ukraine, and has been making arrangements since.
“I want to send out the message that people don’t need to be themselves from Ukraine or have family there in order to do something for the sake of other people,” he said.
This is not Fischer’s first time succoring regions with care shortage. He participated in the construction of a hospital in Pignon, Haiti, a community of over 40,000 people near the mountains with a high index of women suffering miscarriages due to a lack of medical care.
“It is not the same to send a card than to show up for someone who needs help,” said Fischer. “I am going [to Ukraine] because I can, not everybody is that position. I don’t think that people are ignoring it, but there’s just such tremendous suffering and there needs to be action.”
Since announcing his departure, Fischer has been met with “incredible” support from colleagues who have donated neck braces, sutures, catheters, masks, disinfectants and other medical materials used to treat trauma.
My office in New York!#generous New Yorkers gathering up@more material to send to Ukraine. We hope for at least five full bags.
This is what I wish I had done for Bosnia. To the airport soon pic.twitter.com/murDwr5sRU
— Conrad Fischer (@SeeFisch) April 4, 2022
Fischer brings more than 20 years of experience to the team, put together by needs-based organization MedGlobal.
MedGlobal was founded in 2017 by doctors experienced in emergency health services. Their operations in Bangladesh, Puerto Rico, Yemen and Colombia have been set to address humanitarian crises caused by natural disasters, displacement due to conflict, disease outbreaks, poverty or insufficient healthcare.
“We in MedGlobal are standing in solidarity with our colleagues and the civilian in Ukraine,” said the organization’s president, Dr. Zaher Sahloul, in a statement Monday. “We will provide as much assistance as we would be able to, and we will also be the voice of the Ukrainian community in the United States.”
As he prepared for his flight out, Fischer told Brooklyn Paper he felt prepared and protected in the care of safety staff. He plans to be back in New York by Sunday.
“My goal is to not die,” said Fischer. “This is a place where rockets fall from the sky. Going doesn’t mean I’m not frightened but I’m more frightened of not doing anything.”