This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, a large nuclear explosion that occurred in the former Soviet Union, leaving more than 56 thousand square kilometers contaminated and creating a legacy of genetic issues and cancers among those affected by the fallout.
Groups of children from Belarus have visited West Virginia annually for many years for medical examinations and treatment with the medical team at the WVU Physicians of Charleston. Examinations are performed by Dr. Steven Artz, an endocrinologist with the practice and professor at the WVU School of Medicine Charleston Division.
Artz has been involved with the program since 1996 and says his connection partly comes from his great-grandfather living in the region. He also believes that physicians and medical schools should give back to the community when they can.
The small country of Belarus to the north of Ukraine received a majority of the resulting radiation fallout. According to the American Belarussian Relief Organization, in that country there has been a 200% increase in thyroid diseases and cancers as well as an increase in leukemia, birth defects, and vitamin deficiencies