The Hippocratic Oath of a Syrian-Armenian Doctor

Special for the Armenian Weekly

“After March 2011, it was clear that Syria was no longer an option,” said Dr. Karnig Jozigian, as we sat down for coffee in Stepanakert.

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 50 percent of hospitals in Syria have been destroyed or severely damaged, while more than 15,000 physicians have fled the conflict and found refuge elsewhere.

Karnig Jozigian inspecting the medicine donated by the ARF's Help Your Brother Initiative.
Karnig Jozigian inspecting the medicine donated by the ARF’s Help Your Brother Initiative.

While Jozigian is not practicing medicine in the ghost city of Aleppo, he is adhering to the Hippocratic Oath by serving the people of another conflict zone: Artsakh (Nagorno Karabagh Republic).

In 2001, he went to Armenia to study medicine at the Yerevan State Medical University. After completing six years of education and two years of medical residency in the field of internal medicine, he briefly returned to Aleppo and completed a three-month medical training program there.

At that time, the medical sector in Syria had far more to offer than the one in Armenia. Nonetheless, guided by an inherent sense of obligation to serve the Armenian nation, and his profound love for Datevig, he returned to Armenia. Jozigian had met Datevig, a pianist from Dilijan, while they were both university students in Yerevan. By 2011, the couple was married and living in Dilijan, where Jozigian worked at the newly-established Dilijan Medical Center.

“In the summer of 2012, when Syrian Armenians started migrating to Armenia, the Republic of Armenia government announced that doctors were needed in the Independent State of Artsakh,” he said. “After receiving positive feedback from the [Armenian] Ministry of Diaspora, I visited Artsakh for the first time in my life.” During this scouting mission, he met with officials from the Ministry of Health in Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, as well as with the local Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) leaders. He was informed that doctors were needed in three primary locations: Lachin, Kalbajar, and Vank.

“It was love at first sight. The second I saw the mountains of Artsakh, I knew I wanted to live here,” Jozigian said.

He and his wife have been living in Vank (near the Kantsasar Monastery) for the past nine months. For the time being, they are living in one of the rooms in the hospital, while they wait to receive funds from the state to renovate their government-designated home. With assistance from the government, Datevig found a job as a piano instructor at the local school of art.

“The medical sector in Artsakh is dreadful. The vast majority of the doctors who return from Yerevan with a medical degree choose to practice in Stepanakert rather than in their own villages,” he said. “I am the only doctor in Vank and the surrounding six villages. The hospital has a staff of 20 consisting of 14 nurses, ambulance drivers, accountants, and janitors.”

The fixed income for doctors in Artsakh is 156,000 AMD (roughly $375US; however, visiting doctors receive an extra percentage (determined by their location of residency). For example, a visiting doctor receives an additional 40 percent in Stepanakert, 60 percent in Vank, and 80 percent in Lachin and Kalbajar. In the past year, around 7,200 people have visited the hospital in Vank. Around 10 percent of the patients were transferred to Stepanakert to receive the proper medical care.

“Our hospital lacks the proper infrastructure to provide full-scale medical care to our patients,” he explained. “The hospital has a laboratory for blood tests, but we do not have an X-ray device or an ultrasound machine. Even our ambulance is in abysmal condition.” Several months ago, the ARF’s Help Your Brother initiative sent $15,000 worth of medicine and medical supplies to the hospital in Vank. That supply of medicine is still being used to treat patients at Jozigian’s hospital. Over the past nine months, Jozigian has found himself in numerous emergency situations where he’s had to conduct operations and provide services that are not usually available due to the lack of infrastructure and equipment in Vank.

“Traditionally we do not deliver babies at the Vank Hospital. We refer those cases to Stepanakert,” he said. “But in the past nine months, I have had to deliver three healthy babies at our hospital, because they were emergency cases.” Despite the challenges, Dr. Karnig Jozigian affirms his commitment to serving his nation in Artsakh. “I probably would make a lot more money if I worked in Yerevan,” he said. “But I prefer the lifestyle here in Artsakh. I will do everything I can to remain here. I might even invest in farming.” Two other Syrian-Armenian doctors and one dentist have moved to Artsakh in the past year. “Aleppo is my birthplace. I have a lot of memories there. I love Syria,” he said. “But Armenia and Artsakh is my homeland. I am still adhering to the Hippocratic Oath by serving the people in Artsakh.”

Sarkis Balkhian

Sarkis Balkhian

Sarkis Balkhian is a contrarian, political, and human rights activist focusing on the Middle East and the South Caucasus regions. He is the advocacy director of the Aleppo Compatriotic Charitable Organization, a group supporting Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons. Balkhian holds a B.A in government and international relations from Clark University and an M.A. in diplomacy and international relations from Yerevan State University. He is based in Yerevan.


  1. this is an amazing young man, people like him are one of kind we should be very proud of them and encourage them in every way what is the armenian fund doing to improve the medical situation in artsakh? this should be a project of the ARMENIAN FUND

  2. God bless your holy mission Dr. Karnig Jozigian.
    You and Datevig are a blessing for our nation.
    This is a beautiful message for all of us.
    That’s our obligation to help the needy.
    I hope the Armenian Organizations will extend a helpful hand.

  3. Bravo Karnik jan,
    This is what I call pure patriotism.
    I hope some other doctors would follow your example and serve
    the desperate people in Kashatagh (Lachin)

  4. Սիրելի Գառնիկ,
    Շատ երկար և երջանիկ ապրես: Բարեմաղթումեմ որ Տիրոջ օրհնութիւնը քո և յարգելի գերդաստանիտ գլխից անպակս լինի.

  5. When I read this kind of material it makes me very emotional in both positive and negative way. Of course I Admire Dr Karnig Jozigian’s decision to serve in Artsakh and all the other Armenians who made their Home both in Armenia and in Artsakh. Unfortunately not many. Few weeks ago I read in one of our news papers that in the country I live in Australia, Fifty thousand (50.000) Jews have left this good country Australia, to return to Israel permanently during the last TWO YEARS. Another fifteen thousand(15.000) left from New Zealand to go back to Israel during the same time the last two years. Jews from Great Britain are leaving and going to Israel and I am talking about Jews who are well established in England and in their interviews with BBC they say it is better for their children in Israel then in England. Last week on BBC Radio again there was a segment talking about Jews from leaving France and Migrating for good. Why are you leaving France asked the BBC Journalist to a French Jew? He said Jews are leaving France because it is not SAFE anymore for Jewish people. We fill safer in Israel. He said France is becoming Islamised and the French are becoming anti Jewish. I was surprised. I shared this with an Armenian friend. He said they are Jewish and we are Armenian. When they arrive
    in Israel they are helped in every way. What do you think it will happen when Armenians arrive in Armenia? But I said when Israelis were going to Israel, in the 20’s 30’s, 40’s and 50’s Israel wasn’t what it is today. There was a determination and great mission to be accomplished at all cost. That is what we LACK today. No mission to accomplish. We are not encouraged by our leaders to have and see the mission in the diaspora. It is amazing. So what happened to all that TEBI HAYASDAN calling?? Like one Turkish Female Journalist called us on BBC Radio again “I don’t know she Said, what these Armenians will and can achieve by telling the world about the Genocide but they sit in their condominiums on their BACKS and yell “we want our lands”. I heard this interview myself. And that what a Turkish Journalist thinks about the Diaspora Armenians. And I read the comments written after this article and make you think…it is all about others who should do something…the Armenian fund and other organizations but not us… I do not mean to hurt anyone’s feeling by writing these comments.

    • One quick reply Mr. Zohrab! It’s not the leaders fault that we are not achieving our goal, that is the recognition of the Genocide by Turkey!
      Sadly It’s the people’s fault… Only one good reason for such accusation: the majority of the Armenian people is still talk turkish in their daily life and with PLEASURE!! Like nothing happened 99 years ago!!! If you take this away from the people, believe me, people will volunteer as it is their last wish to Conquest Turkey!!!

    • Carlos Pashayani,

      “the majority of the Armenian people is still talk turkish in their daily life and with PLEASURE!! ”

      The majority? Where did you get that? The majority of Armenians do not speak Turkish.


    • Random Armenian
      “The majority? Where did you get that? The majority of Armenians do not speak Turkish” ??!!
      Mr. Random Armenian, maybe I didn’t stress the word “majority” well enough. I have a question for you: Did you live in several provinces in two different countries which have Armenian population?
      Well I have a surprise for you, I did !! And witnessed unpleasant conversations between armenians in dispora who just speak turkish like It is a divine language!!
      Note: These scenarios existed a long time ago and still happening, and are sorrow to my heart.
      P.S.: It is April 24th of 2014! I hope this year, if not next year Khache mer serderoun mech yev sourn ou zerahe mer tserin, voch te tourkeren mer iravasoutyoune barzabes bahanchenk, aylabes tourkyan(Mer GILIGIAN) azadakrenk!!!
      I hope you understand my opinion… You know where to find me…

    • Carlos Pashayani,

      I live in and interact with a diverse Armenian community. And yes there are Armenians who speak Turkish. Some because they are Bolsahyes, a few from Iran learned it after listening to Turkish TV broadcasts, and a few because they spoke Turkish along with Armenian and English in their family. I even met one elderly woman who knew Ottoman Turkish because it was kept it alive in the family.

      But they are in no means the majority, based on my experience. I think you’re way overreacting to Armenians who speak Turkish and jumping to the conclusion that majority speak it. This makes no sense given the several generations between now and the genocide and given how many countries we all live in.

      “Note: These scenarios existed a long time ago and still happening, and are sorrow to my heart.”

      And let me explain something in return. A segment of the Armenian population at the time of the genocide spoke only Turkish. In some areas Armenian was outlawed. In others, for one reason or another, they had moved from Armenian to Turkish. They were Armenian and Christian but spoke Turkish. I’ve even heard that the Armenian bible was translated into Turkish but written in the Armenian alphabet (I’d love to hear from others to confirm this).

      If you search a little you’ll even find die in the wool Lebanese
      Tashnaks who know Turkish.

  6. Please check out the Birthright Armenia organization at and encourage young people to volunteer in Armenia. Over 800 have done so in the past 10 years and either repatriated or continued their ties there. This is one way to start the dialogue…..

  7. Karnik, you are a hero to our nation. Only with people like you we can build a strong Haiasdan and Artsakh
    Look at the American Jews who go to Israel ,they make huge sacrifices to build a strong nation

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