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Russian doctors tour Gainesvilles medical spots
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A group of Russian doctors has spent this week taking a look at American medicine, Gainesville-style, as part of a Rotary Club effort.

“It’s an opportunity for them to learn some of the things we’re doing, and it’s also important for us to learn from them as to what they’re doing and what works and what doesn’t work,” said Bill St. Clair of the Rotary Club of Gainesville.

One clear area of interest to the group is that “they have a government system and we’re moving that way,” St. Clair said.

The group’s visit stems from mutual efforts about two years ago, when St. Clair was contacted by someone in the city of Yekaterinburg, about 1,000 miles east of Moscow, in the Ural Mountains area, separating Europe from Asia.

“They offered to have some medical doctors come and visit facilities in Georgia in connection with the Rotary Club,” he said. “We did that two years ago. And then, we have another program — it’s not an exchange — where they’re coming to visit us.”

The seven doctors have toured Good News Clinics, Northeast Georgia Medical Center and The Longstreet Clinic, as well as AEON Clinical Laboratories, with plans to leave today.

The group heads to Valdosta and later Athens and Gwinnett County.

Their two-week journey, with Rotarians serving as host families, is scheduled to end with a trip to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, St. Clair said.

The group took a break after its Good News Clinics tour Monday afternoon to talk about the visit.

So far, the U.S. trip had been a whirlwind — in New York one night, Georgia the next day.

“They feel a lot more hospitality here,” said the group’s interpreter, Ilya Zlotnikov.

The group’s members were Olga Mikhaleva, Marina Ivantcova, Dmitry Matveev, Alexander Kovalev, Svetlana Arapova, Guzel Bikkinina and Ayritta Khanova.

Several of the doctors observed that Russia, as part of the former Soviet Union, had a government-run health care system.

“It (still) exists but in a different form,” Zlotnikov said. “Right now, we have two different systems — one is government-run and one is private. About 20 percent of medical facilities are private.

“It seems like America is moving from a market-run (system) to more of (a) government-run one, and in Russia, it’s in reverse.”

The doctors figure, however, that in the end, there’ll be a mix of both in both countries.

“We’re just trying to figure out where the balance is,” Zlotnikov said, answering for the group.

The Russians were asked if they knew many of the details about the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, which took effect Jan. 1 and requires every American to be insured or face possible tax penalties.

There were several “nyets,” or “noes,” in the group.

“They realize it’s heavily debated in this country — that not everybody supports it,” Zlotnikov said.

The U.S. and Russia share many of the same medical concerns, the doctors said.

“Obesity is a problem in Russia, but, being here in this country for a couple of days, we understand why a lot of people are obese,“ Zlotnikov said. “With American food, portions are large and there’s a lot of carbohydrates involved and in general, it’s very fatty.”

Generally speaking, citizens of both countries “need to choose healthy lifestyles,” he added.