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Moran Hosts Ukrainian Physicians in Outreach Observership Program

Daryna Dikunova, MD, left, and Oleksandra “Sasha” Melnyk, MD.
Daryna Dikunova, MD, left, and Oleksandra “Sasha” Melnyk, MD, spent about 6 weeks each training at the Moran Eye Center as part of the International Observership Program.

Training ophthalmologists worldwide is a core component of the John A. Moran Eye Center's education and outreach programs. So when the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons sent out a call to support Ukrainian ophthalmologists in 2023, Vice Chair of Education Jeff Pettey, MD, MBA, and team jumped at the opportunity.

Through a grant from the Sidra Tree Foundation, the Global Outreach Division hosted Daryna Dikunova, MD, and Oleksandra (Sasha) Melnyk, MD, as part of Moran’s International Observership Program.

“The invasion of Ukraine has devastated the eye health of their people, from traumatic injuries to patients no longer able to secure needed eye medications. Drs. Melnyk and Dikunova are bravely committed to Ukraine and serving their people,” says Pettey. “Our partnership will continue to grow and we look forward to future collaborations in more peaceful times.”

When they applied for their observerships, Dikunova and Melnyk had already logged almost a year dealing with complex eye traumas caused by missile strikes and other war-related injuries.

Although she worked as a vitreoretinal specialist and led the ophthalmic emergency department at her hospital in Dnipro, the war challenged Dikunova in new ways.

“I am on the eastern border, and so many soldiers need our help. I had done a few vitreoretinal surgeries a week, but since the war, I’ve ended up doing 10 or more a day,” she says. “At Moran, I learned about different approaches to various procedures, including oculoplastics. I also saw pathologies I had only read about. I’ve learned new ways of approaching diagnoses and patients and a lot more about available treatments for diseases like uveitis. I love teaching and can’t wait to share it all.”

Melnyk comes from Rivne in western Ukraine. Just six months after her residency, she began working in a trauma setting.

“Every day at Moran, I’ve learned something new,” she says. “Neuro-ophthalmology has been particularly important, especially related to eye trauma. We are dealing more and more with retinal detachments, so learning about scleral buckling was super helpful and exciting. I am going back home with all kinds of new techniques and levels of understanding.”

About Moran’s International Observership Program

The Global Outreach Division hosts up to 20 international physicians annually to spend up to three months at Moran training in a subspecialty, shadowing ophthalmologists in the clinical and surgical environment, and learning surgical techniques in a wet lab and on simulators. Nurses may also train in the program. Application information may be found here.