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CCU Atheneum: Eight Russian professionals involved in health care delivery in Russia came to South Carolina from June 18 to June 28 to study gerontology services and programs here. CCU's Billy Hills, back row, led the group. Moscow physician Dr. Edward Karyukhim, front right, was the spokesman for the delegation.
Eight Russian professionals involved in health care delivery in Russia came to South Carolina from June 18 to June 28 to study gerontology services and programs here. CCU's Billy Hills, back row, led the group. Moscow physician Dr. Edward Karyukhim, front right, was the spokesman for the delegation.

Hills leads U.S.-Russia gerontology exchange program

by Doug Bell
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Coastal Carolina University psychology professor William E. Hills spent the month of June leading a unique international peer-to-peer dialogue program designed to allow a select group of Americans and Russians to share best practices in the study of gerontology.

During the first half of the month, a team of eight South Carolina health care providers traveled to Russia June 3-15 to observe Russian health care for the aged. After their return, a team of eight Russian professionals involved in health care delivery came to South Carolina from June 18 to June 28 to study gerontology services and programs here.

The collaborative program is funded by the U.S. State Department through the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Its purpose is to pair U.S. health care professionals with Russian health care providers to exchange information. For Hills, a specialist in gerontology and board member of the S.C. Center for Gerontology at the University of South Carolina, this trip marked his 10th visit to Russia since 2005. Most of his previous trips were financed through Fulbright grants for the purpose of teaching and gathering research on the aging population in Russia.

“Gerontology is a relatively young area of study, involving several research and application sciences,” says Hills. “This project, which involves sharing best practices through a peer-to-peer exchange, is a win-win situation: both the U.S. and Russia benefit as the study creates and develops an important dialogue between Russian and U.S. gerontology specialists. It also furthers Coastal Carolina University interests in helping professors gain more depth of knowledge in older adult issues and broadens the ability of the University to reach out with programs and services to our rapidly growing community of seniors.”

In addition to Hills, members of the team who traveled to Russia were Dr. Victor Hirth, a geriatrician with the Senior Primary Care Practice at Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia; Sue Haddock, associate chief of staff for research at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia and adjunct associate professor at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health; Maureen Dever-Bumba, associate vice president of health sciences at Florence-Darlington Technical College; Karen Scott, nurse manager at WJB Dorn Veterans Administration Medical Center in Columbia; Karen Hills, a licensed independent social worker-clinical practice gerontology specialist; Rita Chou, head of the S.C. Center for Gerontology; and Dennis Reed, production manager for media services at CCU, who photographed the events of the trip for the University.

During the Russian portion of the program, the delegation traveled to Moscow, Vologda City and Pskov to learn more about programs that deal with the elderly populations in Russia, where the life expectancy is age 70, as compared to 78.8 in the United States.

In America, the Russian delegation, led by Moscow physician Dr. Edward Karyukhim, visited hospices, community living centers and other facilities in the Myrtle Beach area and in Columbia that deal with the elderly. The group met with representatives of the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging and the Horry County Council on Aging. They also visited the Brightwater independent living retirement community, CCU’s Osher Lifelong Learning program, and Still Hopes, a 30-acre retirement community in Columbia that offers continuing care through various stages of aging and health care. To get a flavor of the Myrtle Beach area, the delegation also went to the Carolina Opry, Brookgreen Gardens and the Sky Wheel.

“The unique program is helping CCU build a ‘global campus,’ ” said CCU Provost Ralph Byington at a reception for the Russian delegates in the Alford Ballroom on campus June 20. “Studying health care across national boundaries allows our two countries to learn from one another and adopt practices consistent with national priorities and appropriate cultural contexts.”

“By learning together, we will all learn better,” said College of Science Dean Michael Roberts at the reception.

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