BY BERJ ABKARIAN
In September, I had the pleasure of working alongside more than 37 multi-specialty medical and dental professionals from Valley Children’s Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente, and Community Medical Centers for our third Medical Mission to Armenia. I was especially happy that three residents from dental, oral maxillofacial and pediatric programs also joined the mission. It is important to highlight that 95 % of the medical mission team members are returning participants serving on our medical mission tem for the past three years.
Once again, with the generous support of the Fresno community and three of the major health care institutions in the Central Valley, the mission was able to secure and transport to Armenia major medical equipment including two laparoscopic towers, laparoscopic surgical supplies, portable EKG and ultrasound machines, mammography printer, portable audiometers, dental implant equipment and supplies, surgical and general supplies, and various medications.
The primary focus of this year’s mission was to provide care to Armenia’s orphans, the highest priority in terms of need. Another critical task was the renovating and equipping of the maternal child operating room of the hospital in the city of Akhouryan which is adjacent to Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city.
Upon arrival, the teams quickly deployed out to the outlying regions of Armenia which included Shirak, Ararat, Kodayk, and Armavir and immediately commenced their vital work. The pediatric surgical team remained in the capital city of Yerevan and provided care at the local pediatric hospital. During the mission, the teams were able to provide 1,300 primary care treatment, 220 clinical consultation and training, 100 advanced diagnostic procedures, 15 newborn deliveries, and performed 132 surgeries.
Lectures and educational sessions were held for Armenia’s health care providers, caregivers, and the families of developmentally disabled orphans. In addition the team worked with UNICEF and visited seven schools and rehabilitation facilities interacted with the staff, made observations and then offered recommendations. The team successfully improved the network of communication between local providers and our medical mission members which will serve as a year round resource.
Thanks to the dedication of volunteer medical and dental professionals who worked long hours each day, the goals of the mission were completed, but the work continues and the vision to improve the health status of the country marches on. There is much to be done and the need is so great in that region. Armenia remains isolated from its neighbors Turkey and Azerbaijan which only serve to exacerbate the challenge. Therefore, our crucial role becomes even more important.
Fresno and the greater San Joaquin Valley’s brand in Armenia have been enhanced through the humanitarian efforts of this amazing group of selfless mission driven clinicians. Fresno’s kindness has gone global and the medical mission team is yet another wonderful demonstration of American diplomacy and values at its best. The bond cemented by our team and the legions of grateful Armenians who were overwhelmed by the support will forever is cemented. The experience has inspired many to emulate the work of the medical mission team and participate as volunteers in helping their communities. To this end, that is the greatest legacy we could leave behind. Initially, we brought “fish” to feed, but then we trained many to become “fishermen” and that’s truly inspirational.
The planning process for next mission has already begun. Some of the goals include the renovation of a surgical suite in township of Massis, procuring critical equipment for an oncology hospital in Stepanakert so cancer patients have access to services without traveling hours to Yerevan. The United States is a beacon of hope to many around the world and there is no better example of that hope in full display then exemplified by our beloved American volunteers who represent our community with honor.
God bless our great community and God bless the United of States of America. I could not be more proud.
The below email from Dr. Daphne Lin, (dental resident), in a few words summarizes the impact of the mission.
We have made it back home safe and sound; I just wanted to express my gratitude again for inviting me to be part of this trip. When we met the first time you told me I would be a different person when I returned, as I woke up this morning and reflected upon my experience, I couldn’t agree more. It was an extremely humbling experience to be there, learning about the culture and treating the undeserved. Thank you again for putting this trip together, none of it would be possible without you. Have a great rest of the week and safe travel home!
DR. BERJ ABKARIAN is Armenia’s Honorary Consul in Fresno, in addition to leading the medical mission to Armenia