A call to “educational” arms, hearts and minds

By Ann B. Gates @exerciseworks

How can the sports and exercise medicine community support Ukrainian health care students to continue their studies and graduate?

When societal and educational democracy is threatened- who acts?

A peaceful, democratic country, Ukraine, was invaded by Russia on 24th February 2022[1]. What followed has been a humanitarian and societal catastrophe that has caused death, destruction and despair. These are very dark times for Europe and the world. The global condemnation of the assault on Ukraine has seen the Hague UN’s international court of justice (ICJ) order Russia to halt its invasion of Ukraine.

In addition to the tragedies unfolding every hour and minute, I want to draw your attention to an impending disaster for the health care sector, especially the future of Ukrainian health care students: tomorrow’s doctors, nurses and allied health professionals (notably physiotherapists and occupational therapists).

A shared purpose to help

Ukrainian registered health care students (HCPs) must be supported by the global and European health care/academic communities to continue their studies (where/when able), to graduate into their profession, and to build capacity within the health workforce. In Ukraine, and Europe.

Both short- and long-term disruption to the process of graduating and strengthening the health sector capacity to support the people of Ukraine would be an added disaster. There will be much support and skills needed[2] for the building of the physical and mental health of a nation ravaged by war, injuries and unprecedented disabilities. Children, women and people living with noncommunicable diseases and disabilities[3] will need urgent and sustained health care excellence to survive and endure. We know that sport and physical activity can help refugees and displaced persons recover and gain improved health.[4]

What can YOU do?

As part of the VANGUARD Erasmus+ project[5] working with EU partners in Lithuania and Estonia we have been able to explore what could be done in the medical schools and schools of health to support students still in Ukraine and those displaced by the war. These are challenging times where shared purpose and change agency is required. Rules and power need to be discarded. An example of actions speaking louder than words is the dramatic about-face in Berlin’s defence policy. Similarly, prompt decisions to support the educational community and the students of Ukraine are needed.

Examples of help offered

The Universities of Vilnius[6] and Tartu[7] are offering a variety of scholarships and educational support to registered students. The Guild[8] of universities has also offered support measures. But many of these initiatives support students within their own countries. What about those people from a refugee background or lived experience of displacement?

An example is the Trust-Me Ed organisation- a physiotherapy-based platform. Trust-Me Ed has offered one email away, open, free access to Ukrainian physiotherapy students[9].

The time for the sports and exercise community (SEM) to lead on securing continued education is now!

Conclusion: A call to educational arms

Can you and the SEM community secure other opportunities and unrestricted access educational options?

Please share your actions on social media: #HealthEdUkraine and #ScienceForUkraine with examples of the action for support

The HCPs of tomorrow need to graduate and qualify. Ukraine will need them[10]. Europe will need them. Patients will need them. Please help.

Many thanks to everyone for their support to help Ukraine especially Trust-Me Ed team Jørn Stian Lauritzsen and Nils Oudhuis , the Universities of Vilnius and Tartu (EU Erasmus+ VANGUARD colleagues) and especially: Ramunė Žilinskienė, Natalja Fatkulina, Jarek Mäestu, Roger Kerry and George Metsios.

A huge thanks also to Oleksandra Petrauskaite for the translated blog which will accompany this English language version.

Conflict of Interest: None. No activities have been supported from monies donated from Russia.


  1. 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine accessed 17th March 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_Russian_invasion_of_Ukraine#:~:text=On%2024%20February%202022%2C%20Russia,Europe%20since%20World%20War%20II.
  2. WHO support for health system development in Ukraine 2016–2019 https://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/413925/WHO_Health-Systems_support_Ukraine.pdf accessed 18th March 2022.
  3. UN HCR accessed 18th March 2022 https://www.unhcr.org/uk/
  4. Promoting physical activity for mental health in contexts of displacement BJSM blog Simon Rosenbaum, Sophie Danielson, Beat Baggenstos accessed 18th March 2022 https://blogs.bmj.com/bjsm/2021/05/31/promoting-physical-activity-for-mental-health-in-contexts-of-displacement/
  5. Launch of the Erasmus+ #MovementForMovement resources for physical activity, noncommunicable diseases, surgery, and pregnancy Blog UK Council of Deans of Health 2020 accessed 18th March 2022 https://www.councilofdeans.org.uk/2020/11/launch-of-the-erasmus-movementformovement-resources/
  6. Vilnius University support to Ukraine https://www.vu.lt/en/support-to-ukraine
  7. Information about the war against Ukraine University of Tartu https://ut.ee/en/ukraine
  8. The Guild’s universities supporting researchers, academics and students affected by the war in Ukraine. The Guild. Accessed 18th March 2022. https://www.the-guild.eu/resources/the-guild-s-universities-supporting-researchers-ac.html
  9. Trust-Me Ed and @exerciseworks social media launch https://twitter.com/exerciseworks/status/1504104800656494601?s=20&t=i9eXidqFTd49i2H2STX0iw
  10. ScienceForUkraine https://scienceforukraine.eu/ is a voluntary initiative whose mission is to support students and researchers from Ukraine directly affected by the Russia’s invasion. Accessed 18th March 2021.

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