UCLA Health organizes relief for Ukrainian cancer patients and refugees

The delivery of much-needed drugs and supplies was a complex operation that required precise timing due to storage requirements.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, 2022, it has displaced more than 12 million people seeking safety, shelter and aid to neighboring countries. Among them are 179,000 newly diagnosed cancer patients seeking treatment and medication.

This summer, UCLA Health sent two shipments of cancer drugs and supplies to Ukraine for patients desperately in need.

The first shipment of cancer drugs, coordinated by John Glaspy, MD, a professor of medicine at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC), and Project HOPE, a global health and humanitarian aid organization, arrived to the Grigoryev Institute of Medical Radiology and Oncology of The National Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine in Kharkov on June 8.

“Typically, people buy [cancer] drugs and donate them, but that isn’t efficient or sustainable,” says Dr. Glaspy. Instead, he went straight to the source – the manufacturers – where he spoke with biopharmaceutical CEOs about sending donations to Ukraine.

Both companies, AMGEN and McKesson, agreed.

“The delivery was complex, involving import and export regulations and customs in three nations (United States, Poland and Ukraine),” says Jason Obten, global logistics director of Project HOPE. “It required precision timing to ensure that the cold chain requirements were maintained throughout the shipping process up to the point of delivery in Kharkov.”

Since Aug. 8, the donation has help to treat and save the lives of more than 50 patients.

“We cannot thank Dr. Glaspy and UCLA Health enough for the tremendous effort to make this donation possible,” Obten says.

UCLA Health next sent 25 pallets of medical supplies to the International Medical Corps of Ukraine in Kyiv on July 8.

“We had leftover medical supplies from Care Harbor and donating to Ukraine was the best way for us to utilize them,” says Candis Crockett, a principal analyst at UCLA Health, who helped manage the donation logistics. “It’s been a difficult time with the global supply chain, so it made sense that sending supplies, rather than money, would have a greater impact.”

Students from Medical Aid Initiative, a student-run organization partnering with UCLA health to share resources globally, also participated in the effort, donating supplies and time in the warehouse.

(L-R) In the UCLA Health warehouse, Fedra Djourabchi, director of marketing strategy at UCLA Health, John A. Glaspy, MD, and Michael Burke, MHA, chief of international and business development services organized shipments of cancer drugs and supplies to cancer patients in Ukraine. (Photo by Candice Crockett | UCLA Health)

"Every time there has been an international crisis, we have turned to the MAI students to help support our humanitarian efforts and their contribution as they gather and prepare shipments of available medical supplies has been invaluable,” says Fedra Djourabchi, MsHC, the director of strategic marketing at UCLA Health.

One of the greatest aspects of this donation was that everyone from all areas of the organization jumped in, according to Crockett. “From clinical engineers helping with CO2 monitors, to the patient transport team, who shuttled students and volunteers from campus to the warehouse to help assemble the pallets, everyone pitched in.”

It’s “our responsibility as a health organization to help not only our own patients, but patients in our global community,” says Djourabchi.

“All the humanitarian efforts we’ve done – whether in Beirut, Armenia, Haiti and now Ukraine – they all have the mission of healing humankind.”

Learn more about the Medical Aid Initiative and international projects.