Five Ukrainian surgeons are spending a week in Shreveport (USA) to learn more about laparoscopic surgery, according to The Times.

They are visiting through an exchange program coordinated by Good Samaritan International, a medical mission, and Willis-Knighton Health System. Dr. William Norwood, a surgeon, and his wife, Jenny Norwood, a nurse, founded the medical mission 12 years ago.

The Norwoods started the nonprofit to help their Ukrainian counterparts with health problems arising from the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986. The mission also serves orphanages that house about 200,000 Ukrainian children.

Ukrainians are exposed to low levels of radiation daily, even after more than two decades. Doctors see higher rates of malignant cancer and more patients with a suppressed immune system, which makes them more susceptible to infection.

"It`s everlasting radiation in water and soil," said Dr. Mykola "Nick" Kucher, a general surgeon and a professor at a medical university in Kiev.

Laparoscopic surgery reduces the risk of infections after the procedure because surgeons use small incisions instead of cutting open a person`s abdomen. Lowering the risk of infection benefits patients with less-effective immune systems, Kucher said.

Laparoscopy also allows people to leave the hospital sooner and recover faster. Kucher said there has been a "0 percent" mortality rate in the laparoscopic surgeries performed.

Since 1995, Willis-Knighton has invested about $5 million in the mission by providing supplies and used laparoscopic equipment. The equipment is located at five laparoscopic centers in the Ukraine.

The Norwoods and volunteers visit the Ukraine every year to help with surgery and orphanage needs. Ukrainian doctors visit Shreveport every other year.

This week, the Ukrainian doctors — Kucher, Yaroslav Havrysh, Andriy Dvorakevych and father and son duo Myroslav Kryvoruk and Orest Kryvoruk — will observe Norwood performing advanced laparoscopic surgery, visit LSU Medical School in Shreveport and meet members of the local medical community.

"We will try to promote these kinds of surgeries in the Ukraine," Kucher said.

By Melody Brumble, The Times