Medical Mission Trip: Armenia
With more than 35 volunteer medical professionals, Armenia Fund and Glendale Adventist Medical Center (GAMC) sponsored a successful medical mission trip to the Noyemberyan Hospital, located in Armenia’s northeast Tavush region, in mid-October.
The week-long trip is a result of the special partnership between GAMC and Armenia Fund, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for Armenia and Karabakh. Together, the entities aim to establish a sister hospital relationship with the Noyemberyan Hospital.
The purpose of the trip was to offer free medical services and surgeries to the residents of Noyemberyan and 30 surrounding villages. It also provided the opportunity for GAMC physicians, nurses, support personnel and hospital leaders to lay the foundation of a long-term partnership. In May of this year, GAMC and Armenia Fund leadership visited the Noyemberyan Hospital for a needs assessment as well as to help plan the mission trip.
Led by Kevin Roberts, president and CEO of GAMC, the 31-member medical team performed 35 surgeries. The magnitude and scale of a mission trip like this had never occurred in Armenia’s modern history, especially in a rural hospital. The GAMC surgical team, composed of three surgeons, two anesthesiologists, surgical nurses, scrub techs and a biomedical engineer, worked long hours in completing operations.
“As physicians, we went to Armenia to help people who are marginalized and lacking resources,” said Simon Keushkerian, M.D. “As an immigrant, the only way you can show that your heritage is still maintained alive and thriving is by making sure that the people who live in that country are healthy to thrive and to survive.”
Children with congenital facial defects were operated on free of charge. Farmers and other rural works with hernias were able to return to work, thanks to the multiple surgeries performed by GAMC surgeons.
“I performed surgeries on several patients—oral and neck tumors, scar revisions, cleft palates,” said Armond Kotikian, M.D. “Patients ranged from a 10-month-old infant to senior adults. Half the patients were under age 5. I won’t forget the look of gratitude on faces of the families whose children we helped to finally be able to eat and drink normally.”
In addition to the surgical team, 10 primary care and specialist physicians examined, treated and provided free medications to twice as many patients as had been planned, bringing the total of the trip’s beneficiaries to approximately 800 people. Internal medicine, cardiology, pulmonary, neurology and pediatrics were particularly welcomed based on the medical needs of the community.
“We felt God’s call to expand our Adventist Health mission of ‘sharing His love’ to Noyemberyan. He then blessed our service with safety, unity and effectiveness,” said Roberts, a nurse by training. “Seeing the joy and relief on peoples’ faces and hearing them say ‘you brought hope to our community’ exceeded our expectations and will propel us to return and do more.
Adventist Health donated a brand-new, all-wheel drive ambulance with critical life support equipment, suited to operate on unpaved roads. Armenia Fund U.S. Western Region’s president, Antranik Baghdassarian, matched the gift by donating another identical ambulance. Prior to the donation, Noyemberyan had only one ambulance which would break down often and was well past its lifespan.
Thanks to the partnership, the Noyemberyan Hospital’s surgical capacity was doubled when the procedure room was converted to a complete operating room. Prior to the arrival of the mission trip team, GAMC donated two anesthesia machines, complete with monitors and accessories, and 2.5 tons of medical supplies.
“The biggest accomplishment of the trip was confidence building for Armenia. GAMC and the Armenia Fund created an important link with the people by being there with so much force to show what we did and what can be done. It was amazing,” said Harout Mesrobian, M.D. “I can do only so much on my own, but by doing it under this team…it was a unique opportunity.”
Armenia Fund coordinated the mission activities with the Ministry of Health of Armenia. The group was received by the Honorable Armen Muradyan, M.D., who welcomed the efforts of Armenia Fund and GAMC in enhancing rural medicine in Armenia, especially in the Tavush Region.
Upon completion of the trip, the group was received by President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan who thanked all the volunteers for their time and efforts in helping this important area of Armenia. Baghdassarian also expressed his gratitude.
“I would like to personally thank each and every team member on this medical mission. The Glendale Adventist Medical Center, along with its president, Kevin Roberts, wholeheartedly served our brothers and sisters in Armenia. Thanks to the efforts of GAMC and Armenia Fund, the whole concept of a medical mission was really re-defined. It raised the bar for missions in Armenia with a new, higher standard. Whether it was linking Noyemberyan and GAMC via telemedicine or enhancing the surgical capacity of the hospital, this mission has always had an eye to the future,” said Baghdassarian.