April 11, 2022 

Hello CommonHealth reader,

Today I'd like to introduce you to Frank Duggan.

The Hingham resident has spent his life traveling. But for the first time later this month, Duggan will fly into a war zone.

He's going to Ukraine.

Duggan has worked for 20 years as an emergency room doctor, hopscotching across the country taking shifts wherever the health system is short staffed. Abroad, he’s logged more than 20,000 hours volunteering as a physician in dozens of countries, from Cambodia to Haiti, Kenya and Nicaragua.

When Russia first invaded Ukraine, Duggan wasn't eager to add that country to his list; he worried that he might be more of a liability than an asset. Duggan told me what Ukraine needed then was medical supplies, due to disrupted supply chains: medications like insulin and medical equipment like metal frames to stabilize fractured limbs.

Through a friend of a friend, he got connected with a group of medical professionals volunteering to support Ukrainians remotely. When a woman on hormone replacement therapy couldn’t access her medication, Duggan gave her a list of alternative medications that have similar effects and instructions on how to use whichever one she could find. He helped another woman who ran out of medication for an irregular heartbeat troubleshoot what to do.

“If I can offload some of the burden, then their health care system can address the things that do require boots on the ground,” said Duggan.

But now, Duggan is getting credentialed to practice in person in Ukraine. As the conflict heads into its seventh week, many of Ukraine’s medical personnel are beginning to experience battle fatigue and burnout, so reinforcements — in the form of other medical personnel — are useful, he told me.

Duggan’s plan over the next few weeks is to fly to Poland and then make his way to Ukraine. Working with Rapid Aid Liaison Group, he expects to be paired with a bilingual medical student to help translate and navigate the Ukrainian health system.   

As Duggan gets ready, he told me he’s been reviewing his notes on some of those medical procedures he hasn’t done recently — everything from wound care to c-sections. He’s also making a plan for how to break the news of his departure to his family.

“I’m single still. I don’t have any children," he said. "My father's probably not going to be terribly thrilled when he finds out. But I feel strongly about what's going on over there and trying to be a part of the solution in some small way.”

I’ll be checking in with Duggan as he travels to Ukraine.

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Gabrielle Emanuel
Health reporter

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