Los Angeles, November 14, 2018 – Armenia Fund USA and Adventist Health have completed the Fund’s largest medical mission to date in Armenia and Artsakh.
From September 22 through 26, Armenia Fund USA and Adventist Health implemented their fourth joint medical mission to Noyemberyan Hospital, in Armenia’s northeastern Tavush Region. This year’s mission reached a major milestone as it also included a comprehensive medical mission to the Stepanakert Republican Medical Center, in Artsakh, from September 27 through October 5, with the aim of elevating the professional and technical capacities of the hospital to the next level.
The mission to Artsakh was jointly implemented by Armenia Fund, Adventist Health, and Chevy Chase Surgery Center.
“The scale and scope of our 2018 medical mission have been unprecedented, and we couldn’t be happier with the results,” said Maria Mehranian, President of Armenia Fund USA, and continued, “The overarching goals of our missions are to help build the capabilities of medical institutions through training, knowledge transfer, and technological assistance, and to provide medical care to economically-vulnerable populations. On behalf of Armenia Fund, I would like to convey our heartfelt gratitude to our project partners, supporters, and each and every one of the wonderful, selfless volunteer healthcare professionals who gave their utmost for the realization of our 2018 mission.”
The missions to Noyemberyan and Stepanakert alike were carried out by a volunteer team of over 68 doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals from the Adventist Health Southern California Region. They provided an extensive range of free medical services — including primary and specialty care, various tests and screenings, and surgeries — to close to 2,650 patients from throughout the Tavush and Lori regions; and, for the first time, to close to 1,040 patients from Stepanakert and other regions of Artsakh. Moreover, free prescriptions were provided to more than 2,500 patients in Noyemberyan and Stepanakert.
At Noyemberyan Hospital, particular emphasis was placed on orthopedic interventions and women’s health. The latter services included various tests and screenings such as Pap smears, and a complement of gynecological surgeries and procedures. As in the past three years, core services provided to patients in Noyemberyan included high-quality care in the areas of internal medicine, cardiology, oncology, pulmonology, neurology, and pediatrics. The services included a total of 16 surgeries (eight gynecological and eight general), 550 joint injections, 85 oncological consultations, 475 pediatric consultations, 1,475 general consultations, and 45 Pap smears. In tandem with these services, the volunteer doctors from Adventist Health further enhanced the professional capabilities of colleagues at Noyemberyan Hospital through hands-on trainings and knowledge-sharing.
The focus of the medical mission to Artsakh was to considerably boost the technical and professional capabilities of the Stepanakert Republican Medical Center, particularly in the fields of ophthalmology, gastroenterology, orthopedics, gynecology, interventional cardiology, oncology, interventional neurology, nephrology, and dialysis care. The provided services included 33 general surgeries, 18 orthopedic surgeries (18 total knee replacements and four arthroscopies), 35 ophthalmological surgeries, ten hysterectomies, 60 Pap smears, 17 cath-lab procedures (comprising seven cardiological, seven neurological, two electrophysiological, and one AV fistula), 112 gastroenterology procedures (56 endoscopies and 56 colonoscopies), 50 ICU rounds, 100 oncology consultations, and dialysis treatment and consultation for 45 patients.
Many of the advanced procedures were being performed by the volunteer physicians from California for the first time in the history of Artsakh, with the aim of training local doctors in the latest approaches and techniques pertaining to their fields of specialty. These groundbreaking procedures included Artsakh’s first-ever brain-aneurysm surgery; the placement of the first pacemaker and defibrillator; the first carotid stenting; the first total-knee-implant operations; the first complex hernia procedures; the first complex gallbladder removals; the first colon-resection surgery; the first proper colonoscopy and endoscopy procedures; the first ERCP procedure, performed by gastroenterologists; and the first phaco eye-cataract surgery. Today, thanks to the medical mission, the Stepanakert Republican Medical Center is fully equipped to perform a complement of highly specialized procedures. In the field of ophthalmology, for instance, the hospital is now capable of performing cataract surgeries that are entirely on par with procedures performed in Europe and the United States.
As part of the medical mission to Stepanakert, the volunteer team from California provided consultations and treatment to patients at not only the Stepanakert Republican Medical Center, but also at the Stepanakert Armine Pagoumian Polyclinic (300 patients) as well as clinics in three area villages (305 patients).
Accompanying the Adventist Health team was Alice Issai, the recently appointed President and CEO of Adventist Health Glendale. This was her first participation in a medical mission to Armenia and Artsakh. “It’s been a great honor and a humbling experience to serve the people of Artsakh,” Issai said. “The citizens of Artsakh were so excited and felt so fortunate to have had access to the services of doctors from the United States. As importantly, physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other healthcare professionals at the Stepanakert Republican Medical Center worked shoulder to shoulder with us to expand their skills and gain new knowledge. We were able to help improve the quality of life of local residents while enhancing the skills of numerous doctors, so they could carry out their work at an extremely high level of expertise. I hope that we are able to return. We made many friends in the process, and I look forward to staying in touch.”
A key ingredient for the success of the mission in Artsakh were the state-of-the-art gastrointestinal and ophthalmological equipments donated by Drs. Avedis and Ara Tavitian, through Chevy Chase Surgery Center; and leading-edge orthopedics implants and equipment donated by DJO Surgical. The donated equipment has given the Stepanakert Republican Medical Center the flexibility to perform different types of cataract surgeries, and to easily perform endoscopies and colonoscopies, remove polyps, and perform other treatments.
Throughout the course of the mission in Stepanakert, the volunteer doctors provided local colleagues with trainings in not only all aspects and protocols with regard to the procedures involved, but also in the utilization of the donated equipment. As a result, the volunteer doctors from the United States have effectively helped the Stepanakert Republican Medical Center establish world-class departments of gastroenterology, orthopedics, and ophthalmology.
“I think a central accomplishment of our medical missions has been the creation of a platform, a template, for self-sustainable care and continuation of services, in Noyemberyan and Stepanakert alike,” said Dr. Arby Nahapetian, Chief Medical Officer of the Adventist Health Southern California Region, and continued, “This was achieved by providing local medical professionals with intensive trainings, in terms of advanced skills and knowledge, and supporting them to continue to carry out their work in a sustainable manner.”
As in the past, Armenia Fund has complemented its latest medical missions with significant material assistance. In the run-up to the missions, the Fund has shipped large quantities of medical equipment, surgical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and other required medical/surgical items to Noyemberyan Hospital and the Stepanakert Republican Medical Center, in support of the project. This year, the Fund has shipped more than 4.5 tons of materials. The Fund arranges for the transportation, logistics, and clearance of all these equipments and supplies. In addition, it plays a lead role in ground operations, making sure the many moving parts of the medical missions work seamlessly and properly.
Launched in 2015, the medical missions to Noyemberyan have been implemented through a special partnership between Los Angeles-based Armenia Fund USA and Adventist Health, with the twin aims of helping upgrade Armenia’s rural medical infrastructure and providing much-needed medical care to residents of Tavush. The 2018 mission significantly expanded the scope of these aims with the inclusion of the Stepanakert Republican Medical Center in the program. To date, the medical missions to Noyemberyan and Stepanakert have provided a wide range of care, including 347 surgeries, to a total of 9,440 patients.
Noyemberyan Hospital was completely rebuilt and modernized by Armenia Fund USA’s Swiss and German partner organizations in 2011. The Stepanakert Republican Medical Center was built by the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund in 2013, through a generous donation by Russia-based benefactor Samvel Karapetyan. The facility is adjacent to the Stepanakert Armine Pagoumian Polyclinic, built by Armenia Fund USA in 2006; as well as the Stepanakert Oncology Center, constructed by the Fonds Armenien de France in 2007.