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Dr. Alla Shapiro was a first physician-responder to the worst nuclear disaster in history: the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine on April 26, 1986. First responders were not given detailed instructions or protective clothing. Amid an eerie and pervasive silence, Dr. Shapiro treated traumatized children and witnessed frightened civilians running barefoot across radioactive ground carrying stretchers to save others. First responders triaged and administered first aid, extinguished fires, and cleaned up radioactive debris. No protocols to mitigate the nuclear disaster were in place because no one had prepared for the possibility of a nuclear accident. From the outset of the disaster, the Soviet government worsened matters by spreading misinformation, and first responders were ordered to participate in the deception of the public. The bureaucratic cover-up angered and disheartened Dr. Shapiro. This painful experience, combined with decades of personal and professional discrimination that she endured as a Jewish citizen of the USSR, led Dr. Shapiro and her family to immigrate to the United States in the late 1980s. As émigrés, the Shapiro family were restricted to taking no more than forty pounds of possessions and no more than ninety dollars in cash per person. On their harrowing journey, four generations of the Shapiro family travelled to Vienna, Austria, and then to Italy, where they remained for six months awaiting permission to enter the United States.


Even after her arrival in the United States, Alla Shapiro faced innumerable difficulties, including traversing miles of red tape involved in validating her medical credentials. After successfully passing the exams for foreign-trained medical graduates, she began her pediatric residency at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC. Following the completion of her residency, Alla Shapiro was accepted to the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, where she completed a three-year fellowship in pediatric hematology- oncology.


From 2003 to 2019, Dr. Shapiro worked at the US Food and Drug Administration where she reviewed applications submitted by pharmaceutical companies, private investigators, and academicians attempting to develop safe and effective medical countermeasures (MCM) against chemical, radiological, and nuclear threats. Motivated by her experiences as a physician-responder at Chernobyl, Dr. Alla Shapiro became one of the world’s leading experts in medical countermeasures against radiation exposure.



Dr. Alla Shapiro: worked as a medical officer at the Counterterrorism and Emergency Coordination Staff at the US Food and Drug Administration from 2003 to 2019. Her background is in pediatric hematology-oncology. In the wake of an extensive cover-up perpetuated by the Soviet government during and after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and following many years of personal and professional discrimination as a Jewish citizen of the Soviet Union, Alla and her extended family immigrated to the United States in the late 1980s. After passing the licensing exams for foreign trained medical graduates, Alla began a pediatric residency at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC. Following the completion of her residency, Dr. Shapiro was awarded a fellowship in pediatric hematology-oncology at the National Institute Health, National Cancer Institute (NIH/NCI). 



Paper With Flaps, 240 pp

Doctor on Call

SKU: 9781942134657
  • Alla Shapiro

  • April 26, 2021

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