The “AYF Summer 2017” section of the Armenian Weekly’s Youth page will highlight the 2017 summer programs of the Armenian Youth Federation—Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (AYF-YOARF) Eastern United States.
Medicine in Armenia
By Ari Sagherian
2017 AYF-YOARF Summer Intern
Over the past two months, I have had the amazing opportunity to learn, firsthand, about the healthcare system of Armenia.
Through the AYF internship, I volunteer three days a week at the Arabkir medical center under the tutelage of Dr. Koloyan, the head orthopedic pediatric surgeon, and twice a week with the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF). These experiences have helped me to understand the differences in medical care between Yerevan and the surrounding villages, as well as allowed me to be able to make comparisons with American standards.
The Arabkir medical center is a public hospital, funded by the government, and serves a wide variety of patients. Compared with American standards, the quality of the doctors themselves is equal in every regard, which is amazing because their income is a small fraction of their American colleagues’. The disparity in healthcare quality is mostly evident, however, in the lack of funding and available resources.
One of the core issues that the doctors have expressed immense desire to improve relates to electronic health records for better tracking the longitudinal health of patients. Steps are being taken toward better tracking, but they can be greatly accelerated with Diasporan funding, since there is a lack of funding from the government.
Although there is much room for improvement, the quality of care I have witnessed in the operating room is phenomenal. The team of surgeons taught my fellow interns and me about not only stepwise strategies to perform surgeries but also the ethics of deciding which surgery to perform to optimally advance the patient’s quality of life.
My time at the Arabkir hospital has been invaluable in giving me a global perspective of medicine and preparing me for a career as a doctor.
Volunteering in the medical clinics in the villages in association with the Children of Armenia Fund was an entirely different experience from the one at Arabkir. COAF has done a phenomenal job sponsoring medical clinics in villages around the country, but there is difficulty having medical professionals stay in the villages to provide ongoing care. Consequently, all patients with serious conditions must travel to Yerevan, which is difficult to do.
The establishment of proper clinics has created the opportunity for visiting healthcare professionals to have a major impact, though, as exemplified by an Armenian-American mission trip working with COAF. For two weeks, an entire team came to help diagnose conditions, prescribe treatments, and even perform surgeries. They showcased the potential that visiting professionals can have in the villages, and they have inspired me to return in the future.
Overall, working in hospitals across the country has shown me that although there is much to improve, the healthcare system, led by visionary doctors, has a bright future.