The hard grind of dental school in Ukraine

by | Dec 18, 2020 | News

ZBARAZH, Ukraine — For Arsen Boreyko, dentistry is a family affair.

Boreyko is a third-year school student at Lviv National Medical University whose family owns a dental clinic in Zbarazh, about 400 kilometres west of the capital Kyiv, whose parents all work in the dental industry and whose grandfather is a doctor.

“I wanted to study in medical school all my life,” he said.

Medical school is challenging anywhere, and Ukraine is no exception. From the first semester, students have at least 10 classes to attend. Boreyko’s program takes five years followed by an internship which can last up to two years. Some programs can take longer.

On top of that, he is studying from workbooks and tests that are more than 20 years old.

To succeed, Boreyko is going above and beyond the demands of school and doing a lot of independent studies.

“When I was first-year, I was at the biggest conference in Ukraine [Dental-Expo], it only happens once in two years,” he said.

He also volunteered at the conference, a three-day event that draws experts from around the world. And he has already applied to volunteer again this year.

Vlad Teslia is in his first year at Ternopil National Medical University, in Ternopil about 420 kilometres west of Kyiv, but he already volunteers at a local children’s clinic. On finishing his studies, Teslia wants to become a pediatric surgeon.

Arsen on the right and his brother Stepan on the left. Photo was made during second year in university in their family clinic. Arsen was assisting his brother during tooth implantation.

Arsen Boreyko, right, with his brother Stepan both participated in a tooth implantation procedure during a third-year university family clinic.

He has taken some classes online because of the quarantine of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ukraine has a grading system with the highest mark of 12 with the lowest being one. Teslia said achieving the top grade is a dream in medical school.

“Become a mentor, go for an internship abroad, and you may get once a 12 from one subject,” he said.

When students go for an internship, they meet another difficulty.

Government-funded hospitals usually have limited places and in some cases none at all.

Iryna Fil is a pediatrician and family doctor in the Zbarazh hospital.

“In our hospital two years ago, (there) was a need in a pediatrician,” she said. ”So there was one, but now there is no need, so no (internships).”

An internship involves cycling through university classes and periods working in clinics.

Fil said her interns will help examine and diagnose a young patient, she corrects and discussion ensues to make sure the doctors of the future have got it right.