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Russia: American Medical Association Offers Aid To Physicians

Washington, 5 March 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The president of the Russian Medical Association says the Russian medical system has become fragmented, disorganized and severely underfunded. Dr. Ashot Sarkisyan says the situation has been made worse by public health problems exacerbated by the social upheaval that has dropped half of Russia's population below the poverty level.

The American Medical Association (AMA) is trying to help its Russian colleagues solve some of those problems. The U.S. group started a program this year to help Russia develop a national medical leadership that is better able to handle the country's serious public health problems.

According to AMA board member Dr. Timothy Flaherty, the purpose of the program is to help the Russian physicians establish a method for granting credentials and licenses to doctors. In an interview with RFE/RL, he also said the AMA is trying to help the Russians create a strong medical association that can play a key role in developing national health policies and raise the standards of medical care in Russia.

A delegation of physicians from the Russian Medical Association has already visited AMA headquarters in Chicago and has watched the AMA's liaison with the U.S. Congress at work in Washington. A second delegation from Russia's other medical organization, the Association of Physicians, will visit the AMA for the same type of training this June.

Solving Russia's health problems is going to require both national and international cooperation, said Murray Feshbach, an internationally known expert on Russian demographics. Feshbach, who teaches at Georgetown University in Washington, told a recent meeting of the AMA that doctors in the United States still do not understand the depth of the health problems in Russia. He contends those health problems, particularly the rise of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, diptheria, cholera and the virus that causes AIDS, now threaten the rest of the world.