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Yevhen Kostenko, a dentist, inventor, and teacher, is director of the Scientific Research Center of Reconstructive Stomatology. Mykola Kryzhanovsky, who has known Mr Kostenko for a long time, and who has interviewed him, finds Mr Kostenko to be a person of prodigious talents, of amazing industriousness, of great optimism, and of a broad mind. He is also intensely patriotic.
In January 2010, the Center which is headed by Mr Kostenko, was one of the organizers of an international symposium (the other organizers were the Refresher Courses of the Institute of Stomatology of the P. Shupyk National Medical Academy of Postgraduate Studies and the AFD Company) was devoted to the improvements in the quality of prosthodontics through the use of titanium alloy dental implants. The symposium, in which over four hundred specialists from Ukraine and many European countries took part, was held in Kyiv.
This symposium dealt with a rather specialized subject but evidently an important one for practicing stomatology. Could you rephrase the main points of discussion in a language that would be understandable to a layman?
Well, yes, the things discussed at the symposium were highly specialized. The main points of discussions were the ways of improving the fixation of the implants, of making them last longer and providing better functioning and esthetics, so to say, of the dental work.
Are dental implants gaining in popularity in Ukraine?
Yes, they are. The number of dentists who use them in their work is evidence of the growing interest among the patients. Say, several years ago there was only a score of prosthodontists in Kyiv who used tooth implants in their work. Today we are talking about hundreds upon hundreds of such specialists all over Ukraine. Tooth implants are a sphere of dentistry which is developing fast. Our prosthodontists keep abreast of all the latest advances and employ them in their work. The recent years have seen a breakthrough in the science and practice of dentistry in Ukraine. The quality and techniques of dentist work keep improving, new methods facilitate work.
Is your Center keeping track of what is happening in the world of advanced dentistry?
It sure is. We take part in many projects designed to propagate the latest achievements and to improve the quality of prosthodontics. In their turn, dentists and prosthodontists are getting to be more experienced and better trained. Also, jointly with the Institute of Stomatology and the AFD Company we do a lot of charity work which targets those who need our help most. Diagnoses for the children who suffer from maxillofacial (jaw and face) problems are made free of charge, with the help of a sophisticated tomograph and computers.
You said that your Center takes part in several projects. Could you be more specific?
One of them deals with studying the possibilities of reconstructing the teeth which are ruined to the level below the gums with the help of advanced methods and techniques, and with the use of modern materials. Incidentally, it is also the subject of my thesis.
Does it mean that you have invented new ways of dealing with this problem?
Yes, it does. My ideas have led to the development of nano-technologies in which a new material is used. Such technologies and materials make it possible to do things that could not be done earlier. Besides, they can be used in other branches of medicine. We have developed this new ceramic material jointly with the Frantsevych Materials Development Center and we have also developed methods of actually using this material. It is a very complex process and requires specialized approach and training.
Our ceramic material has features similar to those that the human bone has and thus can be used in prosthodontics with encouraging results. The material is very durable. The technology we have developed for applying this material is unique. The trick is that you have to apply it layer by layer, and doing it properly requires specialized skills and training.
Have you published the results of your research?
Yes, we have. Moreover, our new techniques and methods are being taught at medical schools and the material which has been developed can be purchased on order.
In other words — earlier, a tooth that was ruined below the level of the gum was to be extracted but not “reconstructed.” Your technology makes it possible to “grow” it back. Is that right?
That’s right. Our method and technology makes it possible in 80 percent of the cases. It means it is highly efficient.
In spite of the fact that stomatology in Ukraine has always been developed rather well, there was a lack of new ideas, of new technologies and new materials. New approaches were needed. An invention once made may wait for a breakthrough but always comes, sooner or later. When you develop a new idea you should remember that somebody else may be developing a similar idea. You should push ahead and put it into practice before somebody else does.
What was the starting point in your scientific career?
It began when Prof. O. Pavlenko, Ph.D. in medicine, director of the P. Shupyk Institute of Stomatology invited me to come to work at his institute. There I found a very stimulating circle of young specialists among whom healthy ambitions and competitiveness ran high, and it was a powerful incentive for my own development. Besides, I had had excellent teachers at the medical school — A. Maslakov, V. Radko, H. Biloklytska, V. Bida and others. I had many examples to follow, I was given an impetus to keep learning and developing my professional skills. Also, I acquired a very solid moral and patriotic foundation as a person.
Do you keep your ideas only to yourself?
Of course not! I do my best to pass on my theoretical and practical knowledge to those prosthodontists who attend our refresher courses and to my younger colleagues.
We support an Internet project, Shvydka dopomoha (Urgent Help) which has been developed by the AFD Company. It helps people find the dentist center that would be able to deal with their problem better than any other, and find information about new developments in stomatology.
Our center also carries out scientific and educational projects. We want to help modernize stomatology as much as we can. Stomatology is in need of legal support and requires a change of attitudes to private dentists. The process of granting licenses should be reviewed. In Kyiv there are many privately owned dentist centers but the situation in the provinces and the countryside is a very different one. I am of the opinion that the dentists who want to go to work in the countryside should be given certain privileges and the licenses for practicing dentistry should be given to them free of charge.
A friend of mine, an excellent specialist, has recently set up a small prosthodontics center in the village of Zhukivtsi, Kyiv Oblast, and it is an example to follow. There are many problems that stomatology in Ukraine faces and they are to be dealt with without delay.
The amount of money, not in absolute but in comparative terms, that is allotted to the health care system in Ukraine is comparable with many other countries, but the efficiency and purposefulness in using this money must be greatly improved. Probably, it is the entire approach to public health care that should be changed, not just certain aspects of it. And the changes should be introduced as soon as possible. The intellectual elite of the Ukrainian nation that, among others, includes doctors, teachers and journalists, find themselves to be observers of what is going on rather than participants in introducing changes and reforms. Somebody else does something that should be done by ourselves! It’s rather an absurd situation. There are no mechanisms in Ukraine of introducing the properly managed medical insurance, insurance against mistakes made by physicians. There are no clear-cut rules and laws that would regulate relations between doctors and patients.
For how long have you been doing scientific research?
For about twenty years now. They say that physicists, who specialize in nuclear research, consider a gap of one week in their work too long and since you cannot catch up you should quit your work and retire. I think it was Paganini who said that “If I missed playing the violin yesterday, it is only I who can detect it in the way I play today. If I missed playing the violin for three days, than any listener can tell.” So one must always be practicing one’s craft and keep abreast of the latest advances in one’s profession. Constantly arising challenges must be met and the new ways of helping the patients must be sought and found.
When did you discover you wanted to go into dentistry and do research?
Oh, I can’t really tell. My father, Yakiv, was an aviation designer. As far as I remember, he was always designing something all the time, not necessarily planes. Probably I inherited from him the gene of scientific curiosity and desire to do research. My mother Halyna must have given me the gene that is responsible for doing things thoroughly and methodically. In my childhood, I was taught to play the piano, and my parents kept telling me that good results in anything could be achieved only through industriousness and a lot of effort. I did not like music too much, still less I liked playing the piano but I spent three hours doing it every day. It taught me patience.
I do remember that when I was about fifteen, during summer vacations, I used to go regularly to a hospital which was situated in a neighboring village and offer my help with whatever I could be entrusted. I did it absolutely voluntarily, feeling I just had to do it. I liked helping people… My profession is my hobby. I and the work I do are inseparable. My principle in life is not a radical change but a gradual progress towards achievement. If you keep beginning from the beginning over and over again, there’s little chance you’ll get achieve good results.
Are you married?
Yes, I am, and my wife is also a dentist. Plus, she creates such conditions at home which make it possible for me to devote myself entirely to my work. One can be gifted but without proper conditions one’s talents may not find their proper realization. That’s a fact of life.
Are there any key principles in the family life that you adhere to?
Well, yes, there are. My grandfather, my uncle and my father exercised a great influence on me when I was growing up, and their essential principle that ruled their family life was — do what a man should do to support his family, and never interfere in the women’s work. I think I have borrowed this principle from them.
Now a traditional journalistic question if I may — do you have any hobbies?
I told you — my work is my hobby. I used to do some hunting but I do not do it any longer. Animals, whom we should regard as our next of kin on this planet, are badly affected by the environment pollution and disastrous climate change, and if we do not begin to help them survive they will die out. Hunting means killing animals — realizing the danger animals are in I’ve quit. But I do some fishing. My wife Svitlana, my son Sashko and my daughter Olya and I, we travel to various places of Ukraine as tourists — that is, when I have time for that. I think that getting new impressions is very important for the development of personality in children and being exposed to the beauty of nature does children a lot of good. I want to raise my children in harmony with the world… Sometimes Professor Vitaly Tatenko, a family friend, joins us for a Sunday morning hike. When I go fishing, it is not the catch that I care for — it is a chance to spend quiet hours watching the sunrise and then observe the day blooming into full summer glory.
Are there any places in Ukraine which you can call your favorite?
Yes, there are, and among them are picturesque sights on the banks of the Dnipro River in the Land of Kyivshchyna, in Zakarpattya, in the Carpathian Mountains, and in the Crimea… I took several boating trips down the Tysa River — great and memorable experiences! I traveled beyond the borders of Ukraine too. One of the trips stays particularly vivid in my memory — I went to Kamchatka in Russia. Once I had to run away from hungry bears — a boat saved my life!... A climb to the summit of the Mutnovskiy Volcano in Kamchatka, one of the highest volcanoes in the world was a memorable event too. My daughter was particularly impressed by the flowers that grew among the rocks… n
Yevhen Kostenko with his wife Svitlana and their daughter Olga.
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