Ukraine was the go-to country for Odisha’s aspiring doctors

Attracted by the lower cost of medical education in the war-torn nation, they now await evacuation

Published - February 27, 2022 03:56 am IST - BHUBANESWAR

Jasmine Jahan and Molalisha Behera take shelter at a railway station in Ukraine’s Kharkiv.

Jasmine Jahan and Molalisha Behera take shelter at a railway station in Ukraine’s Kharkiv. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Despite his best efforts, Rajendra Pradhan, a pharmacist in southern Odisha’s Koraput district Circle Jail could not realise his dream of becoming a doctor. In time, he wanted both his sons to be doctors. Mr. Pradhan tried to get his older son, Amlan, enrolled in a medical college in India, but his rank in competitive exams was not high enough. His next best option had to be a medical college in Ukraine, the father decided, and Mr. Amlan did go on to graduate from one.

In the same way, Mr. Pradhan’s second son, Anshuman, is now a medical student, in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. The dream, though, has turned into a nightmare as the young man is hiding in a bunker, hoping to get out safely from the war-torn nation.

“The older son is a house surgeon at the SCB Medical College, Cuttack. The second son, who is in the fifth year [of medical education in Kharkiv], would have become a doctor here in a year. We have sold land and taken bank loans to realise our dream. We hope the setback is temporary,” Surendra Pradhan, the youth’s uncle, said.

Jasmin Jahan, daughter of Mohmmed Abid Hussain, a medical superintendent in Kalimela in Malkangiri district, and Monalisha Behera, daughter of Subash Behera, Sub-Inspector of Police in Keonjhar, both fourth year medical students in Kharkiv, are also stranded.

“My daughter could not crack the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET). But she wanted to become a doctor. I respected her choice of career. Ukraine is good place where it’s not too expensive to study medicine. She was advancing in her career well until the war disrupted everything,” Dr. Hussain said.

With the number of medical seats turning out to be drastically insufficient for students in India, and privately owned colleges charging hefty course fees, medical colleges in Ukraine fill the gap for parents in Odisha’s smaller towns and villages. Since Russian forces attacked Ukraine, parents from remote villages in Odisha are scrambling to reach their wards caught in the war zone.

An estimated 1,500 to 1,700 medical students from Odisha are currently in Ukraine. Ravi Kant, Resident Commissioner and the designated nodal officer for the evacuation of students from Odisha in Ukraine, said he had a list of 400 medical students in need of evacuation.

Comparing costs

Parents have to cough up about ₹1 crore for an MBBS programme in a private college in India whereas the course fees in Ukraine ranges from ₹18 lakh to ₹25 lakh. Livings expenses add up to about ₹1 lakh-₹1.5 lakh per year in Ukraine. Thus, in less than ₹40 lakh, students from India secure a medical degree from Ukraine. The newly qualified doctors then have to pass with at least 50% marks in a Medical Council of India examination to become eligible to practice in India.

Swadhin Mohapatra, an orthopedician in a government-run health institution in Ukraine, after completing his post-graduation there, also runs a consultancy. “I facilitate the admission of 100 to 110 students from Odisha [in Ukraine every year]. In Kharkiv, there are about 800 to 900 students from Odisha alone. Another 100 Odisha students could be studying in the capital city of Kyiv. The course fee is very reasonable here. Moreover, the quality of medical studies is good. About 20 government-run institutes of Ukraine offer seats for foreign students,” Mr. Mohapatra said.

The onset of war in Ukraine has altered everything. Over phone, Ms. Jasmin said that the situation was turning worse at Kharkiv. “Amidst heavy shelling, we are taking shelter at the railway station. Our water and food stock is running out. With temperatures at freezing point, we are struggling to cope with situation,” she said.

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