Let Hearts Beat
The Tarusa Hospital, in the town of Tarusa, in Kaluga Oblast, faces the normal challenges of a contemporary provincial Russian hospital: obsolete equipment, aging medical staff, and long waits to be treated. This hospital faces the additional challenge of heightened summer demand from the large influx of dacha residents. But the hospital is being transformed in a model effort by one Tarusan, Dr. Maxim Ossipov, through a unique charity that combines a US tax-free status endowment and local, grass-roots fund-raising. Here is the story.
Long a place held close to the heart of the Russian intelligentsia, the town of Tarusa, located 135 km from Moscow in the Kaluga Region, has been a frequent host to dueling forces. This ancient town gained notoriety in the 1930s and 40s as the compulsory second home of intellectuals who had been exiled or imprisoned and were thereafter not permitted to live within a 100 km of Moscow. A persecuted but intellectual colony was host to a number of acclaimed musicians (Richter, Igumnov), artists (Levitan), and writers (Maria Tsvetaeva). Today, the tension between persecution and intellectual freedom no longer exists: the town remains a seat of cultural activity (the small town has three concert halls and hosts many music festivals) and a chosen destination and second-home choice for Muscovites.
One of the members of the exiled, intellectual set was a Dr. Ossipov, a cardiologist who had been sent to a labor camp following Stalin’s first Doctor’s Purge and then chose Tarusa as his adopted home. This man’s grandson, Dr. Maxim Ossipov, spent what should have been an idyllic childhood in Tarusa. However, because the family was known to host dissidents, his grandparents’ house was seized and destroyed in the early 1970s, marring Maxim’s memories. In the 1990s, Maxim, by now an accomplished doctor, returned from a year-long cardiology fellowship in San Francisco. While in the United States, he co-authored a medical textbook with a prominent American doctor. The honorarium Maxim earned was enough to buy a little land; he built a new family home and the Ossipovs were back in Tarusa.
“I’m very happy with the current status of the project. This is something which I never did before and which no one has done in Russia in over a century.”
Dr. Maxim Ossipov
Maxim’s first experience in publishing had another consequence. With the post-Soviet medical establishment in disarray, few quality sources of information were available in the Russian language to healthcare professionals. Maxim saw a business opportunity and started a specialist company to undertake the translation and publication of important medical texts. His partner in this venture was Bernie Sucher (veteran entrepreneur, and now Chairman of Alfa Capital). After getting restless in business and feeling the need to practice medicine more regularly, Maxim began returning to Tarusa on the weekends to treat patients who were not receiving adequate healthcare from the local hospital. When Maxim approached Bernie to ask for a $25,000 donation for a portable echocardiography machine, Bernie agreed based on one condition: that Maxim work with him to establish a local charity which would generate grass-roots support for the cause of improving healthcare in Tarusa. At the same time, Bernie would set up a US-based, tax-advantage vehicle (a charitable 501(c)(3) corporation) for receiving taxdeductible funds which could be accumulated and invested for the hospital's benefit for the long-term. Together, the two vehicles would function as a virtual endowment.
This was in 2003. Since then, the effort has come together and achieved its first major organizational goals: the creation of a Russian charitable organization as well as US charitable 501(c)(3) corporation. Serious fund raising for both will begin this summer. Locally, the foundation now has a Moscow-based director, Lina Zhivova, and will hold its first charity event – a concert at the Tretyakov Gallery, on April 9. More importantly, Maxim, along with the echocardiography machine and various other pieces of equipment donated by doctor friends abroad, has been equipped to properly treat heart patients in Tarusa, saving, he believes, at least ten lives and improving the quality of life for dozens of others. Goals for the foundation’s funds include short term, tactical needs (specific equipment) and longer-term objectives: recruitment of young, well-educated talent (the hospital is under-staffed and many doctors are in their 60s) as well as education of the current staff.
Tarusa is a town where individual voices – in the written word, in the painted brushstroke, or the creative arrangement of notes – have made an impression on history. Dr. Ossipov’s actions, it seems, will also create a legacy and impact that future generations will celebrate.
Visit the Endowment in Support of Tarusa Hospital Website at: www.tarusa-hospital.ru