Spotlight on: Jaroszlav Roszpopa, Plastics surgeon

Jaroszlav Roszpopa, Plastics surgeon, is an international medical graduate with expertise in plastic surgery and burns.

He came to the UK from Ukraine 10 years ago.

He started his general surgery training in Ukraine, but moved to specialise in burns, plastic and reconstructive surgery. He moved from western (Uzhhorod) Ukraine to Donetsk, in the east, for postgraduate training, where he gained valuable first-hand experience of some very serious injuries as this was the biggest industrial region in Ukraine, with many coal mines and heavy industry.

During his training, he developed interest in lower limb reconstruction and ortho-plastic work in trauma centres. His training took him to some of the biggest burns and plastic surgery units in the world, including Arizona Burn Centre, Phoenix, USA, where he observed some of the world’s leading burns reconstruction specialists.

Jaroszlav started to look for permanent opportunities abroad and realised his progress would be faster if he spoke English, which he started to learn in 2011 as a part of his PhD.
“This opened so many doors for me,” he said. “I am not very good at languages, though I speak four languages now. I wanted to move abroad and chose the UK because of its geographical location and it had the most reasonable pathway for doctors.”

In 2014, he became one of the first Ukrainian doctors to receive the Total Combat Casualty Care qualification in the USA and started to teach Ukrainian military doctors and medics during the evolving Russian-Ukrainian war.

His training has taken him all over the UK, with periods in Grimsby, Wakefield, Sheffield, Oxford, Northampton, Nottingham, Dudley, Liverpool, Chelmsford, Cambridge and now Norwich – picking up more skills and knowledge as he went.

He’s also covered more basic medical training in the UK, as in Ukraine you go straight into specialist training.

Training in Ukraine is very different,” he said. “You concentrate on your particular speciality – here in the UK it’s much more widespread. You have to know everything before you can progress. It has meant as a surgeon I’ve been able to help a patient with a medical problem on a plane when there was a call for a doctor.”

Having chosen to specialise in plastics in the UK, Jaroszlav needed a national training number (NTN), awarded by Health Education England.

“I didn’t especially mind which part of the country I was in but, ideally, I preferred to stay in the East of England as I was working in Cambridge at the time,” he said. “On top of that, NNUH has one of the best plastic surgery reputations in the country both for variety of treatment and training. I was very pleased to get an NTN in the East of England.

“I am now ST7 and hope to complete my training in a couple of years. I’m also in a position to take my final exams to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Plastic Surgery and I am preparing for that.

“I have a family, with two boys, Anthony and Dominic, who are six and one year old. They’re going through their naughtiest phase while I am studying for this exit exam! My wife, Alla, who is Ukrainian as well, is a solicitor and that was a separate challenge to confirm her qualifications and fitness to practice in the UK.

“What I am saying is that there are always challenges – and sometimes setbacks. Life is challenging but I want to say to my junior colleagues, IMG and everyone, that everything is possible. Sometimes you are lucky and in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it does not work out, but if you know what you want to do there is always a way to find an opportunity to progress.

“In my spare time I like mountain skiing. Two years ago, I was in Andorra skiing at high speed and hit a safety pole at about 100km per hour. I broke my arm and there was concern that the function of my arm would limit my ability to continue down the surgical path, but I recovered completely with intensive rehabilitation and able to continue performing microsurgery.

“Plastic surgery training in the UK is one of the best in the world, in my opinion. It is a long journey but at the end of it you are independent and able to work wherever you want.”