Columbus doctor volunteers to provide medical care to Ukrainians

Ean Bett, MD, is a family physician in Columbus.

I have just returned from two weeks at the Polish-Ukrainian border where I volunteered with a medical and humanitarian group providing care to Ukrainians fleeing their war-torn homeland.

Each man, woman and child has sought comfort in a unique moment of need, and I am grateful to have been able to participate in their care as a physician. But every time I’ve seen soldiers cross the Ukrainian border in the middle of the night, as an American citizen and someone who has traveled through this increasingly restricted world of ours, I have couldn’t help remembering Eugene Jarecki’s film, “Why we fight.”

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Columbus doctor Ean Bett, standing far right, in a makeshift medical tent on the Polish-Ukrainian border, where he recently volunteered with a medical and humanitarian group providing care to fleeing Ukrainians their war-torn homeland.

For those unfamiliar, the film’s thesis centers on President Dwight Eisenhower’s famous farewell speech in 1961 on the emergence of the military-industrial complex. He said: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, sought or not, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

As the US Senate voted 86 to 11 on May 19 to pass a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine, including at least $30 billion value of direct and indirect US military equipment and weapons, I sat in a makeshift medical tent at Medyka, Poland with President Eisenhower’s words of warning rings true again in my mind.

Dr. Ean Bett is a family physician in Columbus.

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There is no doubt that the war in Ukraine is the direct result of Russia’s Barbaric Acts of Aggressionbut many of us have been through enough to know if we’re not careful, this story doesn’t have a happy ending.

As we are bombarded with images of death and destruction in Ukraine via social networks and the 24-hour news cycle, I think back to my friends and classmates who served in other wars during my adulthood; some went home to live their lives, others not. We have to be incredibly careful and do not stir up potentially cataclysmic eventsto avoid a similar fate to our brothers, sisters, neighbors and children who are currently serving in the US military.

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Ukrainian men and women fight for their lives, their country and their future. We should definitely help to the most reasonable extent, but we must also recognize that, unfortunately, our American involvement in wars abroad has not been so fair in recent times, President George W. Bush recently admitted.

Ukrainians deserve our support, our help and our humanitarian efforts, and that is exactly why the doctors, nurses and civilians around the world gathered at the border between Poland and Ukraine, while others ventured into the war-torn country. But we must also proceed with caution to avoid a protracted conflict similar to those drained the United States of trillions of dollars and fueled the military-industrial complex endlessly as “Why We Fight” so rightly warned.

Makeshift medical tents in Medyka, Poland, where Columbus doctor Ean Bett volunteered May 7-23 to provide medical care to Ukrainians.

As a doctor, I have had the privilege of sharing some of the most wonderful and heartbreaking events in people’s lives; we are given a window in joy and pain of the human condition like no other vocation in the world. From this place and from my humanitarian point of view, I wish no more death or destruction on the Ukrainian people; I hope this the war soon ends with peaceful negotiations not a nuclear conflict.

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As citizens of a global superpower in an increasingly interconnected world, we all must also exercise our own duty if we are unable to provide medical care or humanitarian support, as others in our Columbus community have done.

Our duty as citizens is to vote, not just with our hearts, but with our minds toward the future of our country and the world. We need to think long and hard about what potential leaders have said and done concerning this war to discern how they would rule if given the chance.

We must therefore remember President Eisenhower’s parting words in our current and future worldview: “Disarmament, in mutual honor and trust, is a permanent imperative. Together we must learn to mediate differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose…As someone who has witnessed the horror and lingering sadness of war – as anyone who knows that another war could completely destroy this civilization that has been so slowly and painfully built over a thousand years – I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

Ean Bett, MD, is a family physician in Columbus.