Russia native and AGH nurse picked as medical volunteer for Sochi Olympics

| Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, 9:30 p.m.

When Sochi, Russia, was selected as the site of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Andrew Kuznetsoz was overwhelmed with emotion.

“I had tears in my eyes,” said Kuznetsoz, 38, a cardiology nurse at Allegheny General Hospital. “I am Russian, and Sochi is one of the most popular resorts in Russia. I just could not believe it.”

As excited as he then was about the venue, Kuznetsoz never imagined he would attend the Games.

On Monday, he heads to Sochi, a city he has never visited, as one of 600 medical volunteers for the Games. His selection as a volunteer follows months of rigorous study, testing and interviews — and strong competition.

“This is like a dream come true for me,” he said. “It's also a big honor.”

The Sochi Games mark the second time Russia has hosted the Olympics. Kuznetsoz remembers watching on TV the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics, which the United States boycotted. He was 5 years old.

“Those games were so exciting,” said Kuznetsoz, a native of Penza, Russia. “I remember everything about them. A lot of people were very disappointed that American athletes were not in them.”

More than 180,000 people applied to serve as volunteers in Sochi; 25,000 were selected. Kuznetsoz's duties will include assisting athletes and visitors with emergency medical care, and translating. He will be stationed in one of the mountain units.

Kuznetsoz will spend 40 days in Sochi — the Games last about two weeks. He spent months taking online classes.

Kuznetsoz took a leave of absence from work and is paying for his airfare. The Olympics provides accommodations and food for volunteers.

He is particularly excited about visiting the Black Sea city: “It is one of the most recognized resorts in Russia, with miles and miles of nice beaches and lots of entertainment sites.”

Kuznetsoz, who lives in Crafton, has worked at Allegheny General since 2005. He came to Pittsburgh in 2002, encouraged by his brother-in-law, Igor Novodran, a former Ukranian national figure skating champion who coaches.

“I came here as a student,” he said. “There was a great demand for nurses, so that's what I studied.”

He's not the only medical professional with ties to Pittsburgh at the Olympics.

Dr. Gloria Beim, an orthopedic surgeon who trained at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, will be chief medical officer for the U.S. Olympic team. She will oversee three clinics and 77 health care practitioners caring for 235 American athletes.

As a sports medicine fellow at Pitt, Beim was team physician for the school's football, wrestling and gymnastics teams. She comple-ted her sports medicine knee and shoulder fellowship training at UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.

She runs an orthopedic practice in Crested Butte, Colo.

“This is the biggest honor of my life,” said Beim, who has been studying Russian for eight months. She cannot imagine achieving success without her time in Pittsburgh.

“It's the best sports medicine program in the country,” she said. “I saw thousands of patients there. I can't imagine going into private practice without that experience.”

Rick Wills is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7944 or at

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