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During their visit to Montana this week, a visiting group of doctors from Ukraine decided the best way to operate a health care system is with regulation from the federal government, not individual states.

The five doctors were in the United States as part of the Open World Leadership Program, a Washington, D.C.-based center that works to facilitate interaction between the U.S. and the countries of Eurasia, according to its website.

In addition to a day in Helena on Wednesday, the doctors are visiting Great Falls, Hardin and other communities before flying home early Saturday morning after seven days in the state.

The group hopes to apply the ideas learned in Montana to restructure the health care system in Ukraine.

“We will take back a huge amount of information,” Taras Serhiyovych Sopilnyak, a cardiologist, said.

The doctors started their day in Helena by visiting with professors in the nursing program at Carroll College. The level of education provided to nursing students and the technology available to the program interested the doctors.

“We were impressed by this, but this is exactly what we were expecting,” Sopilnyak said.

After Carroll, they met with the governor's health care policy adviser and the board of medical examiners, visited the Capitol building and finished with of evening of formal tea at the translator’s house.

The doctors were particularly interested in telemedicine, which is an exchange of medical information through electronic devices that was first developed as a way for doctors to communicate with rural patients.

Sopilnyak said they view the state-by-state regulation of a telemedicine program as an obstacle.

But applying their ideas will face a different challenge.

“It goes without saying the worst and most important obstacle will be corruption,” Sopilnyak said.

The war in eastern Ukraine, he continued, is sucking money from the whole country. So any medical reform will rely on financial investments from other countries. That is something they hope the United States will help with.

Ophthalmologist Katerina Oleksiivna Tikhonova said she has met many interesting people in Montana so far, and all of them have wanted to provide assistance in any way they can.

Neurologist Kseniya Yurivna Borovkova said she was very grateful to be able to visit the United States.

“We would like to extend our appreciation to the program Open World,” she said.

The group hopes to continue collaborating with Montana after returning home. Nothing has been finalized, but it hopes to continue educational conferencing, business collaboration and cross-cultural exchanges.

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​Alexander Deedy can be reached at 447-4081 or alexander.deedy@helenair.com

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