SWFL medical workers travel to Ukraine to provide emergency aid


Three Southwest Florida residents traveled to Ukraine on behalf of a Florida humanitarian organization that provides emergency medical aid to areas of the world facing conflict or disaster.

Collier County nurse practitioner Andrea Leiner, 43, is overseeing efforts on behalf of Yulee, Fla.-based Global Response Management to deliver emergency medical personnel and supplies to Ukraine.

As director of strategic planning for Global Response, Leiner spent 18 days in Lviv, Ukraine, and Poland from March 9-26, doing initial assessment work on how the organization could help.

Leiner said she was returning to Ukraine on Thursday, adding that Global Response has committed through June to provide emergency medical assistance in Ukraine.

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Last week, an emergency doctor from Naples, Dr. Scott Dunavant, left for Ukraine to be part of a surgical team that includes an anesthetist and a former special operations doctor, she said.

“He’s the rapid response medical director (for Global Response) for this type of high-risk work,” she said.

Ken Craft, a former assistant fire chief from Bonita Springs, was in Ukraine with Leiner in early March as an EMS liaison for rapid response, she said.

Global Response is led by veterans to provide “humanitarian medicine to vulnerable populations displaced by conflict, war or disaster,” according to its website.

In June 2020, when the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic was realized and the farmworker community in Immokalee was facing high infection rates, Global Response had a team in Immokalee to help stop the spread of the virus.

Before Dunavant left for Ukraine last week, Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk provided him with a ballistic vest and hard hat.

Dunavant works for Team Health, a company that supplies emergency physicians to hospitals on contract. He works in the emergency department of NCH Healthcare System.

“I am honored to lend this safety gear to Dr. Dunavant, a Collier County physician who courageously and selflessly helps those who need it most,” Rambosk said in a Facebook post for the sheriff’s department.

“We have worked with the Global Response Management team at Immokalee during the pandemic and know that this non-profit organization provides excellent, much-needed service to those in need.”

Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk met with Dr. Scott Dunavant, an emergency physician, shortly before Dunavant left for Ukraine to provide medical aid to the war-stricken country on behalf of Global Response Management , a humanitarian organization based in Yulee, Florida.  Dunavant is the organization's deputy medical director.  (Provided)

Leiner said it was unclear where Dunavant would be based in Ukraine for a two-week period, but it will be at a hospital where it is badly needed. He is part of a second surgical team in Ukraine, she said.

The teams are intentionally small to travel in a single vehicle to provide emergency support in hospitals and increase surgical capacity, she said.

The organization has three initiatives in Ukraine: providing small cell surgical teams, assisting in the medical evacuation of injured people to Poland, and providing training to volunteer medics on the front lines so they can know what to expect on the practical plan, Leiner said.

Dr. Scott Dunavant, Emergency Physician, is Deputy Medical Director of Global Response Management, a veteran-led humanitarian organization that provides emergency medical care worldwide to people injured and displaced by conflict or disaster.  (Provided)

So far, Global Response has had about 30 volunteers in Ukraine, with its first team on the ground three days after the invasion. Leiner said she was there soon after to help assess the readiness of hospitals alongside other aid organizations.

For more information about Global Response or to donate, visit the organization’s website at global-response.org.

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