Ihor Shpak: The health of almost 5 million people in the south of Ukraine depends on our university

Ihor Viktorovych Shpak, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Professor, Chief Doctor of Maternity Hospital №5, Professor of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, ONMedU.

Is the choice of profession your personal choice or did your parents want it?

This is the story of my childhood. I was still a child when my mother was diagnosed with kidney abnormalities. I loved her very much, so I really wanted her to be healthy. This desire was so strong that after graduation from school I chose the profession of a doctor without hesitation.

And why Odessa Medical Institute?

I come from a district center of Nikolaiev region and in our school there was a tradition: whoever chose medicine, he became a student only of Odessa Medical Institute. All my senior schoolmates were delighted with both Odessa and the university. I am surprisingly pleased that I studied here, those were the happiest years of my life. Memories of my alma mater and teachers are the brightest, warmest, most heartfelt. I think that I was incredibly lucky to study at a university where such talented and well-known scientists far beyond Ukraine as Oleynikova, Synovets, Zolotarev, Lviv, Krysyun and many others worked. And I was also lucky with the supervisors of my PhD thesis. I had experimental and clinical work, so the experimental part on the basis of the vivarium and the Department of Normal Anatomy was headed by the rector I.I. Iliin, and the clinical part – the head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology V.M. Zaporozhan, who became the rector at the time of defending my dissertation. So my first steps in science took place under the watchful eye of the two respected professors and two rectors.

Was Valerii Mykolaiovych Zaporozhan your teacher?

I became interested in his work in the third year. At that time, the name of the young scientist V. Zaporozhan was heard in the medical community throughout the USSR. He won the State Prize for the invention of cryomethod for the treatment of pre-oncological disease of the cervix. And as an intern in the regional maternity hospital, where Valerii Mykolaiovych headed the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, I began to perform scientific work under his guidance. After the internship, dreaming of  becoming a good practical obstetrician, I went to the district, although Valerii Mykolaiovych offered to stay at the department after my graduation. After working for four years, I realized that I still needed science to make practice more perfect. I entered a special clinical residency at the Department of Obstetrics, which trained doctors to work abroad. And, as I said, Valerii Mykolaiovych was the supervisor of my PhD and doctoral dissertation. And since 1997, with breaks in Kyiv (at the Department of Quality Control of the Ministry of Health and the Academy of Postgraduate Education named after Shupyk) and in the Crimea (Minister of Health and lecturer at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the Crimean National Medical University named after Heorhievsky), my life has been associated with Odessa Medical University.

For the last 20 years you have been constantly combining administrative and medical work. How do you do it?

I also do pedagogical work. I have had a pedagogical experience since 1997. And, as before, I am a professor of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of ONMedU on the basis of the 5th maternity hospital, of which I am the chief doctor. And I manage to combine, because all these three areas of activity bring me pleasure.

And do students make you happy?

Students are different at all times. And nowadays there are many that I as an obstetrician-gynecologist would like to see in our ranks. We really have a lot of young people who strive for knowledge. And a lot of merit in nowadays teachers. We have many talented heads of departments, I can’t even list them all, the names of only a few are professors Kashtalyan M.A., Gladchuk I.Z., Grubnik V.V., Karpenko Yu.I.

There are many bright personalities in our university, I can safely say – of the European scale. If Ukraine ranked the best doctors on a quarterly basis, as in other countries, our employees would definitely be in the top ten. Participating in international conferences, listening to the reports of our university, we are proud to understand that they are among the top five, ten of leaders, along with the French, Germans, Poles and Spaniards.

Our university has a really high level of knowledge, technical skills and constant introduction of the latest technologies. Experienced doctors who want to master new knowledge and technologies also want to get into the schools of our outstanding doctors.

And the obstetrics and gynecology school is still at the forefront?

It is. As the founder of quality management in our country, based on the science of quality, I can say that quality medical care is that which is provided in accordance with the requirements of the standard. When we talk about quality obstetric and gynecological care, we use indicators to measure this quality, among which the main indicator of maternal and perinatal mortality. Last year, perinatal mortality in the city and region was less than two ppm, and the figure in Europe – up to 4. And this is one of the best rates in Europe formed over many decades thanks to the efforts of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of ONMedU.

For 30 years, the department has been working on the problem of premature birth, trying to save newborns with extremely low body weight. The founder of the school was Professor A.A. Zelinsky. He initiated the creation of perinatal centers in Ukraine, dreamed that the 5th maternity hospital would become such a center. I hope that will happen next year. And now we have one perinatal center in the regional hospital, and again, its base is the department of our university, which provides postgraduate training for all doctors in Odessa and the southern region of Ukraine.

120 years ago, the medical faculty was considered an advanced educational institution. And is it possible to say so about ONMedU today?

I believe that Odessa National Medical University is vital for the citizens of southern Ukraine. It so happened that it provides medical personnel for the south of Ukraine. And those traditions, knowledge, pedagogical resources of the university in many respects form a strategic indicator of the development of society and the state – the average life expectancy of people. And if there is no ONMedU, it will dramatically affect the duration and quality of life. The health of almost 5 million residents of Odessa, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions depends on our university.