KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — After 15 days in Ukraine, a Knoxville doctor returned home Saturday night.
Dr. Russ Frazier went into the war zone in the midst of a Russian invasion to perform emergency surgeries and train militia about how to perform lifesaving medical procedures.
When he got back home, Dr. Frazier was recognized and honored at the 17th annual Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon 5K race on Saturday night. Race officials announced his return over the loudspeaker and dozens of people wore blue t-shirts that said "#TeamFrazier."
"I recently returned from Ukraine. And, when I got back, I found out the Department of Surgery at Methodist Medical Center had put together a team Frasier for the 5K walk," Frazier said.
The Knoxville doctor is a part of the Global Surgical Medical Support Group (GSMSG). The organization provides medical services to communities in conflict zones, austere environments and disaster areas around the world.
When GSMSG asked Dr. Frazier to join the team in Ukraine, he hopped on a plane.
"It was the next day, I found myself stepping on a plane at JFK airport," Frazier said.
He ended up staying for 15 days.
"We went into Western Ukraine," Frazier said. "We went with the goal of providing whatever the need was. So, we were prepared to teach, educate, train, or provide actual emergency surgery if there were casualties in the city where we were located."
Being a member of GSMSG, Frazier said he's used to working in high-intensity environments. However, he never previously went to a warzone.
"It's concerning when air raid sirens go off. Whether it be in the middle of the night where we were staying, or during the day, when we were teaching during the training," Frazier said. "They tend to fire missiles at night. So, the air raid sirens will go off and no one could get any sleep."
While Frazier conducted surgeries, his wife, Kim Frazier posted about his journey online. The posts quickly found a lot of support. First hundreds, then thousands of likes and comments on social media.
"We have surgeries lined up today. A little behind schedule due to air raid sirens. We are good. 16-20 hour days. Very little sleep. A citizen brought his guitar and played music for us," said one of the posts written by Russ.
He only saw the social media postings once he got back to the U.S.
"Once I got back and got on social media and saw the hundreds and thousands of comments, it was it was very humbling and unbelievable," Frazier said.
Frazier's colleagues at Methodist Medical Center became aware of his service. They were in awe of his selfless service.
"It's not every day that you've got somebody with that sort of spirit of service working amongst you," said Maghan Tidwell, one of the circulating nurses.
The Director of Surgical Services at MMC, Resha Howard, wanted to find a way for the hospital to recognize Dr. Frazier for his work.
"We decided, 'Okay, we've got this Covenant Marathon coming up, and we were going to do the 5k anyway.' So, we were like, 'We're gonna do this in support of what he and his group were doing,'" Howard said.
She organized blue T-shirts that read Heroes Among Us on the front and #TeamFrazier on the back.
"He is a community hero. He's doing lots of good things for our community, our hospital, and then to go over to the Ukraine, we were just blown away, it touched our hearts and we wanted to recognize that," Howard said.