GW Alumnus Travels to Ukraine to Help the Neediest

Adam Goldstein is working as a trauma surgeon at a makeshift hospital in the Eastern European country.

Adam Goldstein
Alumnus Adam Goldstein is working as a trauma surgeon in the Ukraine. (Photo courtesy of Adam Goldstein)
April 07, 2022

By Thomas Kohout

In early March, less than two weeks after Russian forces launched an attack on neighboring Ukraine, alumnus Adam Goldstein, B.A. ’04, found himself working in an Israeli field hospital in the western Ukraine town of Mostyska, not far from the safety of the Polish border.

A team of 80 doctors and nurses staff the makeshift 150-bed hospital, fitted with an emergency department, labor and delivery rooms, advanced imaging technology and mental health services as well as a laboratory, pharmacy and outpatient clinic. The temporary care facilities are housed in converted classrooms and nearly a dozen tents on the playground outside the deserted local school.

“We are here to provide support to the local hospital in helping treat whoever needs help — may it be the huge number of refugee population or local community,” said Goldstein, the director of trauma surgery at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel. “We are working side by side with our collogues here during this difficult time for their country.”

Goldstein said that the job of him and his colleagues “is to help any way possible within our capacity and within the needs of the local community, [whether it’s] just giving a hug and showing that we care, helping with emergent surgeries [or] providing care that is needed.”

Goldstein’s father, Allan Goldstein, professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular medicine at George Washington University’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences, noted that his son’s work in Ukraine causes some anxiety. “My biggest concern,” Allan Goldstein said, “is that because he is a trauma surgeon, he will be going further east to help in the hospitals there, where, according to reports, the doctors are being overwhelmed by trauma patients.”

No stranger to the sound of sirens, falling bombs and exploding rockets, the younger Goldstein wrote a New York Times op-ed in May 2021 about his experiences serving in a surgical trauma unit in a city under attack.

In two and a half days last spring, his hospital, in a southern Tel Aviv neighborhood, received more than 100 victims of missiles, falling shrapnel and violence on the streets. In contrast to the clashes outside the hospital walls, however, Goldstein couldn’t help but notice the diversity of his surgical team. “From the trauma center to the inpatient ward to the operating rooms,” he wrote, “this was a team of Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze (and I’m sure a few others).”

The spirit of unity among the hospital staff, Goldstein continued in the New York Times column, and “the teamwork and diversity and mutual respect can be a model for this entire country, for our entire region.”

Allan Goldstein said he remembers well that he couldn’t get Adam near a medical school when his son was younger. “It was only after going to Ethiopia for six months to study geology [his undergraduate major at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences], where he met an American doctor who was looking for some help at Mother Theresa’s clinic … that he decided he wanted to go into surgery to be a ‘barefoot doctor’ and travel to countries to help the neediest,” Allan Goldstein said. “And what is he doing? Exactly that.”

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