UF psychiatrists deliver antibiotics, surgical supplies to Ukrainian border

two women stand behind two large suitcases
Drs. Ana Turner (left) and Kitty Leung flew to Poland and back in just a weekend to deliver medical supplies to help refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

By Michelle Jaffee

UF Health Jacksonville psychiatrists Ana Turner, M.D., and Kitty Leung, M.D., made a whirlwind, weekend-long trip to a Polish city near the Ukrainian border to hand-deliver four large suitcases full of antibiotics, syringes, safety needles, catheters, surgical supplies, germicidal wipes, support bands and gauze to a convent helping Ukrainian refugees of the Russian invasion.

They decided to make the trip, embarking April 1, after Turner had learned through a community psychiatry listserv that some supplies were getting held up en route to their destinations. Suzanne Vogel-Scibilia, M.D., a fellow psychiatrist in Pennsylvania, had posted a call for others who wanted to help.

“She just wrote such an impressive call to action that I felt the urge to try, even though I’ve never done anything like it before,” Turner said.

A group of medical professionals accept a large bag of supplies
Dr. Ana Turner (middle right) with staff members at Sulzbacher, a homeless shelter in downtown Jacksonville that assisted in ordering supplies and medications.

Sulzbacher, a homeless shelter in downtown Jacksonville, assisted in ordering supplies and medications, paid for with donations by the Florida Catholic Medical Association, the St. Gianna Physician’s Guild and personal contributions from Turner, Leung and friends and colleagues.

Former UF psychiatry resident Rebecca Creel, M.D., now a psychiatrist at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, jumped in to assist Turner with her emergency passport renewal, and Joe Thornton, M.D., a UF Health Gainesville psychiatrist, raced to provide logistical support such as paperwork required to get through customs.

After three flights and a 2½-hour drive to Przemysl, Poland, Turner and Leung delivered the supplies to the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate convent, an order of the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church. There, said Turner, “we met an ER doc from the U.S. who was staying at the convent and helping in the refugee camps nearby. She said she was most excited that all of our supplies were in English, because she’s had to translate medications from multiple different countries.”

Turner and Leung also delivered handmade cards from schoolchildren who attend St. Paul’s Riverside in Jacksonville, where Turner’s children go to school. After refueling on pumpkin stew made by the nuns, Turner and Leung turned around for the trip home.

In making the trip, Leung drew inspiration from the late Leon Haley Jr., M.D., the dean of the UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville who died unexpectedly in July 2021.

“Dr. Haley was a servant leader, and this was a window of opportunity for us to make a difference and be Haley Strong,” Leung said.

a large group of people including nuns, hold up hunches of handmade cards
Handmade cards from schoolchildren who attend St. Paul’s Riverside in Jacksonville were also delivered to a Polish convent helping Ukrainian refugees.