From Madison to Kazakhstan: Dr. John Doyle honored

The Capital Times
By Bob Rashid
Special to The Capital Times

ALMATY, Kazakhstan – More than a decade’s worth of work to improve public health by Madison doctors has earned heartfelt thanks half a world away.

A banquet honoring Madison’s Dr. John Doyle and others was held Saturday at the Hotel Dostyk in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Doyle is a professor in the surgery department at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and chief of dentistry and medical director for dental services at University Hospital and Clinics.

In the past 10 years he has traveled to Kazakhstan 25 times to supervise Prime Kare Kazakhstan, a humanitarian aid program. The central Asian country is located south of Siberia and is home to about 17 million people.

More than $4 million has been invested in Prime Kare Kazakhstan by the Concordia Mission Society, an organization within the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran church. Support and volunteers have come from University Hospital and Clinics.

Doyle, the only person outside Kazakhstan to receive its Distinguished Doctor award, was given an honorary professorship in the Kazakhstan Dental Society. About 80 guests including dignitaries from Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Health attended the event.

Prime Kare Kazakhstan was organized after the collapse of the Soviet Union to provide medical care for pregnant women and children in the Almaty Oblast, an area with more than 3 million people.

In 1995, when the first group of Madisonians arrived in Almaty, they found a health care system crippled by lack of money, equipment and basic supplies. Hospitals were literally crumbling with lack of maintenance and some Kazakh doctors had not been paid a salary in years.

A semi-trailer equipped with both dental and medical facilities was built to reach rural areas and provide a base of support for the medical staff. Volunteers from University Hospital and Clinics worked closely with Kazakh doctors in the clinic on wheels and, eventually, some Kazakh doctors were brought to the United States to learn new techniques. To date, more than 300,000 people have been treated.

During perestroika, many central Asian countries saw an alarming rise in sexually transmitted diseases when they opened their borders to international business. To combat the problem in the Almaty Oblast, an STD laboratory was designed and built under the supervision of Dr. Rjurik Golubjatnikov, emeritus chief immunologist of the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene and emeritus assistant clinical professor of preventive medicine at UW Medical School.

In partnership with Dr. Utegen Yeshimov, chief physician of Almaty Oblast STD Hospital, Golubjatnikov worked to change Kazakh philosophy about handling sexually transmitted diseases and eventually reshaped the laws governing their treatment. Golubjatnikov was also honored at the reception.

Other Madisonians in attendance and recognized for their continuing work were Dr. Gregory DeMuri, associate professor of pediatrics at UW Medical School, Dr. John Stephenson, emeritus professor of pediatrics at UW Medical School, and his wife, Ellen Stephenson, a registered nurse.