Warmer U.S.-Soviet Relationships

Another type of cooperation between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. {Cover, May 29} has been during catastrophes such as the nuclear power accident at Chernobyl, the earthquake in Armenia and the train wreck in the Urals.

Burn specialists, for example, from Massachusetts General Hospital and Shriners Burn Institute, with organizational help from the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, was assembled by Project Hope. The group of doctors and nurses treated severely burned children who were transported to a Moscow hospital two weeks after the train explosion. Others had gone directly to the Ural Mountains site a few days after the explosion.

In addition, a telemedicine "spacebridge" set up through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration linked Soviet physicians at the disaster areas to four university medical centers in the United States, including the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems.

Like research exchanges, these activities benefit medical professions in both nations, but, most important, they also benefit the patients. Robert V. Walker, DDS President American Trauma Society Landover

A pioneer program that laid the groundwork for many of the activities began in 1984, at the invitation of Dr. Eugene Chazov, then director-general of the Cardiovascular Institute in Moscow and co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. It resulted in a visit to Moscow by members of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The American physicians then invited their Soviet colleagues to the U.S., and in February 1985, Dr. Chazov led a delegation on a tour of several U.S. cities. Since then, dozens of Soviet physicians and medical students have visited more than 50 cities. American physicians most recently toured Leningrad and Riga following an international citizens' congress on a nuclear test ban held in Alma Ata, Kazakhstan.

These exchanges were cited by the Nobel committee when it awarded the 1985 Peace prize to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. John Loretz Director of Communications Cynthia Newcomer Soviet tour coordinator Physicians for Social Responsibility Washington To Assuage Grief, 'Just Be There'

Victor Cohn's column on the pariah syndrome {The Patients's Advocate, May 22} really hit home. As the executive director of Samaritans of Washington, a suicide prevention organization that operates a 24-hour hotline for the depressed and suicidal, I can tell you that we talk with callers suffering from overwhelming losses. Often, it is the experience described in the article, where friends disappear after the mourning period, that prompts many people to all our hotline.

I never knew this phenomenon had a name, but it certainly fits. Pariahs are exactly what people become when they suffer in a way that causes other people to be uncomfortable and thus avoid them.

It is difficult to confront our own fears in order to reach out to someone who is chronically or terminally ill or has suffered bereavement, but that reaching out helps in a way that nothing else can. I agree completely with Mr. Cohn when he says it doesn't matter what you say, "the most important thing is just to be there." Ellen Weinberg Executive director The Samaritans Washington

Victor Cohn's column on the pariah syndrome illustrates well the avoidance, abandonment and unhelpful treatment experienced by those suffering the loss of a loved one or by people living with a terminal illness.

However, there are many special people who do care, who know how to listen, how to be there for the grieving, and who are available through the community bereavement program to counsel people experiencing significant loss. Paul R. Brenner Executive Director Montgomery Hospice Society Chevy Chase In Defense of Motorcycles

As motorcyclists frustrated with seemingly endless regulations of our primary means of transportation, we noted that horseback riders suffer one injury for every 350 hours of riding, compared to one injury for every 7,000 hours for motorcyclists {The Cutting Edge, June 5}.

Life is risky. While some safety measures are prudent, we should temper the urge to regulate. Motorcycles average nearly 100 miles per gallon and take up a fraction of a car's parking space. More expensive and burdensome regulation will cause us to drive cars. Safety zealots may then breathe easier -- and breathe more fumes. Paul Grove Tamara Somerville Washington

Letters intended for publication must be signed and include the writer's home address and home and business telephone numbers. Letters may be edited. Although we are unable to acknowledge all letters, we appreciate the time and value the viewpoints of those who write. Send letters to Health Section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.