The Co-Pilot Project (CPP) addresses the significant deficit in high-quality neurosurgical, spine, reconstructive, and plastic surgery training in Ukraine. Just as a co-pilot acts as another set of eyes and ears for the pilot, our mission is to send surgeons from North America to mentor and aid Ukrainian surgeons through difficult cases.
We aim to raise the level of medical and surgical care in Ukraine through the following efforts:
After an exploratory mission trip to Ukraine in August 2016, Dr. Tomycz and his colleagues are convinced that the best way to develop high-quality Ukrainian subspecialty surgical programs is to help train young surgeons through mentoring relationships.
During the initial trip, Luke Tomycz was able to work with neurosurgeons in Kyiv for over a week, examining over 100 patients and performing multiple procedures. Dr. Tomycz was struck by the number of patients with complex neurovascular lesions, epilepsy, spinal deformities, and tumors of the brain and spine who either do not receive any treatment or undergo ineffectual and potentially dangerous operations with surgeons who often lack appropriate expertise.
With the beginning of the full-scale russian invasion of Ukraine in Spring 2022, many American and Canadian organizations and initiatives have reached out to Razom and Co-Pilot Project expressing desire to help with performing complex surgeries and training Ukrainian doctors. We are grateful to all the organizations that we have partnered with and all the doctors who have volunteered their time and skills to help Ukraine in such difficult time.
Dr. Luke Tomycz is the newest addition to the pediatric neurosurgical team at Dell Children’s Medical Center. Dr. Tomycz finished first in his high school class of over 200 students and attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA where he double-majored in biology and chemical engineering. He accepted the prestigious Dean’s Full-Tuition Scholarship to attend medical school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he first developed an interest in neurosurgery. After medical school, he began his formal neurosurgical training at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN where he trained under the late Noel Tulipan, MD, a pioneer in fetal neurosurgery for myelomeningocele. During his seven-year residency, he spent two years obtaining an in-folded fellowship in endovascular surgery, becoming proficient in the treatment of aneurysms, AVMs, Moya-Moya syndrome, and complex dural AV fistulae of adults and children. After this, Dr. Tomycz spent an additional year at Seattle Children’s Hospital performing a large volume of complex epilepsy surgery with Jeff Ojemann, MD. Following an exhaustive job search, Dr.Tomycz was attracted to Austin as the city was in the process of launching a new medical school at the University of Texas.
Dr. Tomycz specializes in all aspects of pediatric neurosurgery including brain tumors, epilepsy, Chiari malformation, tethered cord syndrome, CSF shunting, and intracranial endoscopy. As one of the only dual-trained, pediatric and endovascular neurosurgeons in the country, he is particularly interested in Moya-Moya, brain aneurysms and AVMs, arteriovenous fistulae, and other complex neurovascular disorders in children as well as adults. His research interests include the use of engineering innovations to improve treatments for hydrocephalus and he has published on a wide variety of neurosurgical topics. Outside the operating room, Dr. Tomycz enjoys playing guitar and hiking in the mountains. He has travelled extensively to perform neurosurgery and take part in short-term medical mission work – in Cuba, Kenya, Honduras, Ecuador, and Ukraine.
Dr. Tomycz grew up with four grandparents who told stories of their youth and taught their grandchildren the language of their homeland – Ukraine. His parents were both born in refugee camps following the second world war, and came to this country in the early 1950s with virtually nothing. His father excelled in academics and went into medicine, and both Luke and his brother Nestor followed suit, pursuing a career in neurosurgery. During a long period of study and training that lasted more than 15 years, Luke resolved to return to the homeland of his grandparents and provide the kind of high quality care that children receive in the United States.
In 2014 at the peak of protests in the Maidan, Mariya joined several fellow Ukrainians living in New York City to create Razom, a young, energetic, and progressive start-up which seeks to amplify the voice of Ukraine to an American audience. An active member of the board, she is responsible for organizing cultural events as well as cooperating with government representatives, activists, and various civic groups and human rights organizations in support of Ukraine’s quest for democracy.
Mariya is also heavily involved with fundraising for Razom’s projects via crowdsourcing, charity events, and online petitions. After graduating from Penn State University with a BA in Advertising and Public Relations and a dual minor in Entrepreneurship and International Studies, Mariya spent over 5 years in Manhattan working within the content marketing industry. She believes in the enormous potential of dedicated volunteers around the world working to rebuild Ukraine one project at a time.
Director, writer and cinematographer with three completed award-winning shorts as well as a feature documentary in post-production. After starting his filmmaker career at 2009, Ruslan brings his skills in project management, process analysis and systems models (received during obtaining MA in cybernetics 2003-2008) and applies them to the creative thinking and artistic thought-processes of film. He also holds BA in Film and Television directing (from the Kyiv National University of theatre, cinema and television by Karpenko-Karyi).
“A chance to participate in The Co-Pilot project it’s an amazing opportunity to help others and to tell the story that will engage and inspire people around the world”
Mariana Magala was born in Lviv, Ukraine. She graduated from The University of Chicago in 2013 and holds a B.A. in Economics and Slavic Languages and Literature. Currently, Mariana is a Strategic Analytics Manager at Interline Brands (subsidiary of The Home Depot) in Jacksonville, Florida. She specializes in analytics, business strategy, and nonprofit development. Mariana was the co-chair of a pro-bono consulting group for nonprofits in Chicago for 3 years and is currently the treasurer for a young professionals group at MOSH (Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville).
Mariana joined Razom’s Neurosurgical initiative in 2016. She is very excited to collaborate with the team and develop the initiative into a highly successful program.
FACE TO FACE is the humanitarian arm of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS). This project was created in cooperation with AAFPRS, Razom, the medical NGO INgenius, and Healing the Children Northeast to help wounded victims of the war in Ukraine.
A team of plastic surgeons and nurses visit Ukraine and perform reconstructive and plastic surgeries of the head and neck area at Ukrainian hospitals. The doctors perform long-hour surgeries with high levels of complexity, and the majority of the patients have severe facial defects that require sophisticated surgeries, such as microvascular reconstruction. Sometimes, these types of surgery help not only to restore the face, but also restore the ability to eat and speak. As part of the mission, the complex reconstructions of the facial skeleton are carried out using personalized printed titanium 3D implants from our partner – Materialise.
These types of surgeries are usually not part of the typical Ukrainian surgical training, leaving the majority of patients without appropriate treatment. Therefore, this mission encompasses an educational component, common for the Co-Pilot Project mission. The team performs complex reconstructive surgeries that help patients, while also training local surgeons so they can perform similar surgeries in the future by broadcasting the surgeries live. Hundreds of Ukrainian doctors, including otolaryngologists, maxillofacial surgeons, ophthalmologists, plastic and general surgeons, register to watch the broadcast, where US and Ukrainian specialists walk them through every step of the surgery.
Learn about the first FACE TO FACE trip that took place in September 2022, when them team performed 34 consultations and 31 surgical interventions, here.
Razom partner up with Face the Future Foundation (Canada), as well as the Ukrainian Association of Endoscopic Head and Neck Surgery to bring a team of American and Canadian doctors and nurses, who join Ukrainian team members to treat victims of war. The team meets for a few months prior to the trip to pre-plan surgical treatments for each patient.
Face the Future also organizes opportunities for Ukrainian doctors to gain new knowledge and experience. For example, they held an International Symposium on War Injuries attended by 130 Ukrainian surgeons, a Nursing Academic Day for 70 nurses, and live-streamed surgeries for 590 Ukrainian doctors during their first medical trip in 2023.
Still Strong, a Ukrainian surgeon-run patient management database, works with the mission and accepts hundreds of patients for requiring complex reconstruction surgeries to regain facial functions, improve patients’ appearance and decrease their PTSD.
A group of neurosurgeons, their assistants and medical students go on scheduled trips from the US to Western Ukraine to assist in and train Ukrainian surgeons in performing complex cranial surgeries. This interdisciplinary team often consists of a number of diverse specialists, such as a pediatric neurosurgeon, a neurointerventional radiologist, a skull-base neurosurgeon, a cerebrovascular neurosurgeon and others.
Also, the team usually brings valuable neurosurgical equipment to expand the neurosurgical operative capabilities in Ukraine. The team collaborates with their Ukrainian colleagues to operate on a diverse mix of patients, including adults and children, as well as those with a variety of complex tumors and cerebrovascular malformations.
Patients are evaluated in a clinic and operated on at an elected Ukrainian hospital. In addition to the valuable time spent teaching complex operative techniques to Ukrainian surgeons in the operating room, the US-based team also hosts a number of conferences and didactic sessions aimed at educating surgeons and surgical trainees in Ukraine.
Razom Co-Pilot Project partners with the LEAP mission to send skilled doctors and a team of other medical professionals to assist with war-related and non war-related surgeries at various Ukrainian hospitals. Their specializations include craniofacial, craniofacial orthodontics, head and neck trauma, head and neck reconstruction, neurosurgery, urology, dermatology and others.
Razom contributes to this mission by covering housing, food and medical supply expenses, scrubs through contribution by FIGS, and transportation for the doctors who invested their time and knowledge in treating children affected by the war.