The Grove City Rotary Club was host to a delegation of Ukranian medical professionals at its Oct. 17 meeting.

The seven-member delegation was visiting the U.S. as part of the Open World program.

The program is administered by the Open World Leadership Center, which was established in 1999 by Congress.

"It's a cultural-exchange program funded by Congress that originated after the end of the Cold War," said Adam Slane, who serves as co-chairman of Grove City Rotary's Open World Committee with Chris Killian and Brenda Newman.

"Its purpose was to bring over east Europeans who had been behind the Iron Curtain, to allow them to learn from American counterparts in free, fair and open societies," Slane said.

During their visit Oct. 10-19, the Ukranians stayed with host families in Grove City, Killian said, including his own.

"It's been an incredible experience. I think the host families are getting as much, if not more, out of it as our visitors," he said. "We bonded right away, from the moment we met them at the airport. It's just been a heartwarming experience. We (didn't) want to see them leave."

The Grove City chapter's participation in the Open World program was coordinated through Rotary International, Killian said.

"We wanted to host medical professionals because there are so many opportunities for medical facilities and programs they could visit here in the Columbus area," he said.

The Ukranian delegation included Marta Bazylevych, a medical intern with 2nd Municipal Polyclinic in Lviv, Ukraine; Viktoriia Kovach and Olga Kovalchuk, state experts with the Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine; Dmytro Nestor, a junior consultant with the international technical assistance project Safe, Affordable & Effective Medicines for Ukranians; and Mykhallo Riabinchuk, head of the department for coordination of education programs, public health care of the Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine.

The group also included trip facilitator Anna Mosovetas and translator Olga Shostachuk.

Several Ukranian delegations, with professionals from public policy, medicine and education fields, visited the U.S. this month as part of the Open World program, Mosovetas said.

"We've come here to explain our practices, learn about your practices and hopefully be able to bring something back to Ukraine that we can use to reform and make improvements in our country," she said.

According to the Open World website, more than 29,000 professionals from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have visited the U.S. and met their American counterparts since 1999.

The program offers visitors and Americans the chance to learn about each other's countries and cultures and build a connection, Mosovetas said.

During their visit to central Ohio, the Ukrainan medical professionals visited Nationwide Children's Hospital, Franklin County Public Health, the Central Ohio Trauma System, OhioHealth's Grove City and Riverside hospitals, Grove City Hall, Jackson Township Fire Department and the office of U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Columbus).

As part of the ministry of healthcare's science, innovations, education and human resources directorate, Kovalchuk helps select scientific areas that receive state funding.

"Under the old system, financing that was allocated for medicine didn't depend on the outcome," she said.

The new model in Ukraine puts more emphasis on anticipated outcomes to determine where science funding will go, Kovalchuk said.