Not long after arriving at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry in 2017, Michael Kase DMD struck up an Instagram collaboration with an overseas oral surgeon, Eugene Fresenko PhD, who that same year was helping start a new dental journal.

Headshot of Dr. Michael Kase. Kase had joined UAB as an assistant professor specializing in maxillofacial prosthetics and dental oncology, and he enjoyed sharing comments about these specialties with this new connection. Eventually, Kase began working with Fresenko remotely on the publication.

“We were both kind of the new kids on our block, starting at the same level,” Kase says. “The timing just fit in well with my program.”

Professional partnerships certainly are not unusual in either medicine or academia. What made this association suddenly become much different than anything Kase had ever experienced is the location where Fresenko and the publication are based: Kyiv, Ukraine.

Kase serves as an editorial board member for the Journal of Diagnostics and Treatment of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology (DT Journal, for short), which is the official publication of the Ukrainian Association of Maxillofacial and Oral Surgeons. Fresenko is managing editor of the journal, as well as an associate professor at Kyiv Medical University.

This productive collaboration was shockingly interrupted early this year by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Fresenko’s Instagram posts went from discussing such topics as nasal implants to detailing the horrors of war.

“Through him we had a window into what was going on over there,” Kase says. “All we could do was send him messages wishing him well and hoping everybody was staying safe.”

As weeks turned into months and it became apparent that there would be no quick end to the conflict, Fresenko joined many Ukrainians in simply trying to continue living life as usual. And for Fresenko, that meant putting together the DT Journal.

“When everything started over there, I wondered if they’d still be able to produce it,” Kase says. “But after a while, you realized they weren’t going anywhere. They had a resolve to keep their life as normal as possible given the situation.”

The primary focus of the DT Journal is oncologic and pathologic reconstruction of the head and neck, both surgical and prosthetic. Kase says he enjoys working with the publication because its focus is more clinical than research-oriented.

“I think they’re filling a niche that a lot of research journals don’t have,” Kase says. “They do a really good job of presenting a clinical aspect that I don’t see as often in journals, but I think there’s a huge need for it. This world of maxi prosthetics is so small, it gets overlooked a lot.

“This journal has a lot of case reports. It’s nice to see that type of thing, because our world is mostly spent in the clinic working on patients. A well-controlled lab experiment is fantastic, but it’s not the real world.”

In addition to writing occasional articles and helping promote the journal, Kase says he is working on a few projects with UAB School of Dentistry residents that will be submitted to the journal for future publication.

Fresenko and DT Journal editor-in-chief Oleksii Tymofieiev expressed their appreciation for this partnership with UAB in an article published in the journal in August entitled, “Making a digital editorial bridge between Birmingham, Alabama and Kyiv stronger.”

“Despite any circumstances, like pandemic and war, the communication between professionals can show the tendency to grow,” the article stated. “That is why we are so happy to feel the support of Dr. Kase in such a turbulent period as war time in Europe, and so proud seeing him (as an) editorial board member of our journal.

“Dr. Kase’s work interests cover two directions – dental oncology and maxillofacial prosthodontics. Such expertise will definitely help our journal to fulfill the gap in the direction of maxillofacial prosthetics as a key part of head and neck oncologic surgery.”

Kase, in turn, is happy to play any role he can in helping the people of Ukraine during this difficult period.

“With everything that Ukraine is going through now, you don’t want to forget about the good people who are there,” Kase says. “We tell them, ‘We like you, we like working with you, and we want to help make things better.’ And our collaboration with them helps that. Our normality helps them have some semblance of normality.”