Vadym Panaitidi is one of those highly-qualified professionals who pave the way to establishing professionalism as the only acceptable mode of work in Ukraine.

Vadym Panaitidi is a physician. He helps children come into this world and makes sure their mothers are all right before, during and after the delivery. In other words, he is a gynaecologist. Being the head of the Department of Extra-genital Pathology of the Kyiv Lying-In Hospital #5, he has to be a heart specialist, kidney specialist, liver specialist, blood specialist, etc., all rolled into one. Even if you don’t know he is a doctor, from the very first words exchanged with him in conversation, you know that you are talking to a person whose main concern is welfare and health of people. He radiates human warmth and benignity. He has the kindest eyes I’ve seen on any individual.
I talked to him at his home since he had said on the phone that at work he’s always too busy to be able to devote any uninterrupted length of time to an interview. Even at his home, the telephone kept ringing non-stop. He apologized to me, gave advice or instructions on the phone, and returned to his story only to be interrupted by the next call.
Mr Panaitidi is a top professional in his field. His scientific degrees and the title of “Doctor of Highest Category” all attest to it. With all of this, he is very modest. In fact, at first he refused to talk about himself and his work, insisting that he should tell me only about his hospital, the way things are run there, about the hospital’s Chief Physician who “manages to supply the patients with all the necessary medicines and keep everything in a good state of repair,” and it took all my powers of persuasion to make him tell me, in addition to all that, something about himself too. He is a fascinating personality. Such a statement must be substantiated but I won’t do it. I want you just to believe me. All his patients must be in love with him. He gets calls from women whose life or life of whose child he has saved, years after it happened. They call to say “Thank you”, again and again. He has to pretend that he remembers them and he does it so nicely that they believe him. He never kept count of the deliveries or operations he had made (and operations he performs are sometimes extremely difficult, much more difficult than the Caesarean section) but he reckons there must be no fewer than four thousand babies he helped arrive in this world of ours. He always finds a good smile and words of encouragement for every one of his patients (no matter how rude or thankless some of them are; I’m ashamed for such women, but alas doctors come across cases of ingratitude).
I shall not present this interview in the usual questions and answers format. I’ve put together all the things that Mr Panaitidi managed to tell me between telephone calls he had to answer, in a continuous monologue.

Vadym Panaitidi: “I was born in 1952, in the town of Drohobych, in western Ukraine, far from Kyiv, but not too far from the city of Lviv. Neither of my parents were physicians. I can’t say for sure what, actually, made me want to become a doctor. My father was (he’s now retired) a dancer in a folk dance-and-song group, and my late mother was a singer in the same group, with a music-conservatory education. You wonder my family name sounds sort of Greek. It is Greek. You see, my grandfather on my father’s side was a hundred-percent Greek. He was arrested on a flimsy pretext and then he disappeared without a trace in the Stalin’s GULAG in 1937, at the height of the repressions. …When I was in the eighth or ninth grade of high school I felt I should become a doctor. Just like that. I did not know which doctor yet, but the ambition grew to be so strong that upon graduation I went to Kyiv to get enrolled at the Kyiv Medical Institute (now it’s called Academy).

Why Kyiv? There was no medical school in my home town, and the one in Lviv did not seem to be what I wanted, so I went to the capital of Ukraine for studies. Mind you, you had to go through a system of very tough entrance examinations, — there were too many applicants per one place — to get in. I did. For five years, I studied general medicine and then I majored in gynaecology for two more years. Why did I pick gynaecology? Well, it’s a question I’m often asked. I don’t quite know, it just happened, but I never regretted it. To help women bring their children into this world with the least damage to both — isn’t that supposed to be a sort of a noble thing to do? (here Mr Panaitidi smiled shyly; it seemed to him he made a statement a little too bombastic but I reassured him saying that in my layman’s eyes all medical professions are the most noble occupations on earth).
Ceaserean section: saving the lives of a mother and her baby.
Right after graduation from college, I did not stay in Kyiv. I went to practise medicine in a small town, then in the army for two years. In the mid-seventies I returned to Kyiv and since 1979, I’ve been working at one and the same maternity home. In mid-eighties, I was promoted to head the department of extra-genital pathology. Yes, you are right, you have to be much more than just a gynaecologist to work there. It’s the only department of this kind in the whole of Kyiv, and quite often we have women coming to us from other towns and villages of Ukraine. I want to remind you that we provide our services free of charge. And maternity home — it’s not one patient who comes to us to receive treatment. It’s always two patients, or even more if several babies are born at the same time. They, these tiny human beings, must be taken care of too, and very special care at that. So, you need not only medicines and qualified physicians, you need so many bed sheets, so much equipment, special wards for babies, plus a lot more. And well-trained medical nurses, efficient, benevolent, knowing how to act in an emergency. I think our “chief doctor” who in addition to being a highly qualified physician must also be an excellent manager, very energetic, does a great job. Mykhaylo Makarenko (who, incidentally, is also “the chief gynaecologist of Kyiv) manages the medical staff, the hospital itself and patients with all their demands and requirements. And manages well. I can’t figure out how he does it, but we never seem to lack any medicines or whatever a hospital may be in need of. Thanks to his efforts, and thanks to help, given us by the city mayor, Olexandr Omelchenko, we have things and facilities that no other hospital in town has. Say, in our wards, mothers can stay all the time with their newborn children, and not be separated from them — as is usual in other lying-in hospitals — for some time after the delivery. We have facilities for that. If the man who has fathered a child, wants to be present during the delivery, he is welcome, we have a specially equipped room for that. I can’t say most men are eager to do it, but some are. And quite often they faint, seeing and hearing what’s going on. Well, we take care of that too. We are getting a state-of-the art new facility for taking care of the newborns to be commissioned soon. And all this — at the time when the country is going through a deep economic crisis. Yes, a lot of things get done thanks to a great enthusiasm on the part of doctors, medical personnel, everybody involved. You can’t stop women from giving birth, can you? Well, yes, I have to admit that the birth rate has declined considerably, compared, say, to mid-eighties, when we had over 20 deliveries a day, in our hospital alone, whereas now there are 30-35 births a day in the whole of Kyiv. See the difference? I can’t blame people for not wanting to have children. Life is hard, indeed. The birth rates have dropped over forty percent since 1990, our top year. But once a woman gets pregnant we do our best to deliver her safely of a child. Among my patients are women with all kinds of heart diseases, liver problems, diabetes, what have you, but they also want children and our responsibility is to ensure that the child is born healthy enough and the mother is treated for whatever disease she might have. How long is my working day? Oh, that depends, but often enough I stay round the clock at the hospital. All kinds of emergencies, you know, urgently needed operations. Yes, sometimes you’ve got to perform several operations in a row. That can’t be helped. Life is the most precious thing we have, isn’t it? (and again— a shy smile). How do I relax after such strain? Well, I’m a soccer fan, and watching a good soccer game is an excellent relaxation for me. Though, of course, I’m very upset if Kyiv Dynamo, my favourite club, loses a game or plays badly. I go fishing sometimes, take my daughter who is now eight, for walks. I love to sing, and used to do it at amateur performances. But, frankly, there’s very little time for that. I love a nice company of good friends (I’ve witnessed that: neighbours come for a chat or just to say hello, and often stay for a cup of tea, or for a glass of wine; Mr Panaitidi is very gregarious and generous). From my first marriage I have a grown-up son. I’m married to a doctor now, who works in the same hospital with me, but not in my department. It would be awkward to have your wife for a colleague who is your subordinate into the bargain and has to fulfil your orders, wouldn’t it? (they are a harmoniously matched couple)… No, I’m not running my department “with an iron fist” as you put it (he laughs). I just find ways of persuading my subordinates to do things this way or that way, and I listen to advice, of course… My father, when I was still a medical student, once told me: ‘Your patient may not know the extent of your professional knowledge, but she must know that you are a good person.’ I’ve tried to follow this advice.”
Vadym Panaitidi is both an excellent professional and a most loveable person.

By Olexandr Panasyev