Thirty years ago, in 1992, Armenian-American ophthalmologist Dr. Roger Ohanesian took a trip to Armenia for the first time and subsequently founded the Armenian EyeCare Project (AECP), a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating preventable blindness in Armenia and making quality eye care accessible to every resident in the country.
Three decades later, Dr. Ohanesian is being honored for his decades of humanitarian service through the AECP by the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS). Dr. Ohanesian accepted the coveted ASCRS Foundation’s Chang-Crandall Humanitarian Award during the ASCRS Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.
In his acceptance speech, Dr. Ohanesian expressed his awe at how much the AECP has accomplished in Armenia during the organization’s 30-year history and service to the country.
“You have no idea when you start something what it’s going to turn out to be,” the AECP founder and president said. “It has truly, though, for me, been the honor of a lifetime.”
The AECP’s list of accomplishments in its 30 years of service to Armenia is vast. Over 100 volunteer physicians have visited during medical missions to Armenia to train local physicians and work on complicated cases. Local ophthalmologists in Armenia have received advanced medical education and training both by participating in US fellowships and being trained in-country. Numerous patient care programs and facilities have been developed in Armenia including the AECP’s Mobile Eye Hospital, Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Childhood Blindness, Regional Eye Centers and more.
“Very few of us will leave a mark on this world as important as that of Roger Ohanesian,” said Dr. John Hovanesian, a fellow ophthalmologist and volunteer physician with AECP. “For 30 years Roger has dedicated his life to helping people rise above blindness half a world away. He’s been passionate, he’s been persistent, and he’s been extremely efficient in gathering resources and recruiting like-minded volunteers through his contagious enthusiasm and folksy charm.”
Dr. Ohanesian said he was honored to be recognized by his colleagues within ASCRS for his 30 years of service in Armenia but that this work would be impossible without the team of doctors who have volunteered with the AECP through the years.
“I, alone, should not be the sole recipient of this award,” Dr. Ohanesian said. “It should be shared by each of those who have repeatedly joined our trips, brought instruments and expertise which is then left with our Armenian colleagues who have accomplished so much.”
Most of all, Dr. Ohanesian expressed an immense amount of gratitude for being able to see his vision for Armenia come to life: “I am in awe of what we have accomplished and immeasurably proud of how far this program has come. It’s quite a thrill to see and I’m just so thankful for all of it.”
The ASCRS Foundation’s Chang-Crandall Humanitarian Award is also endowed by a generous gift from Dr. and Mrs. David and Victoria Chang, which Dr. Ohanesian has earmarked for the Armenian EyeCare Project.