AAHPO celebrates renewal of activities

EDGEWATER, N.J. – On May 1, known traditionally as “May Day,” members of the Armenian American Health Professionals Organization (AAHPO) celebrated spring and the renewal of activities that serve AAHPO’s mission.

A highlight of the event, held at The Yacht Club in Edgewater, was the presentation of the AAHPO-Najarian Family Scholarship to Arin Balalian, MD, MPH, and a newly-minted PhD at Columbia University.

AAHPO President Lawrence V. Najarian, MD (right) presents the AAHPO-Najarian Family Scholarship to Arin Balalian, MD, MPH, PhD.

“It really is amazing all we have accomplished in 25 years, and I predict, the best is yet to come,” said AAHPO president Lawrence V. Najarian, MD.

AAHPO vice president Garbis Baydar, MD, shared how through the past two years dominated by COVID, AAHPO members have assisted individuals and families with healthcare needs ranging from obtaining prescriptions to gaining access to medical specialists. For example, an Armenian, whose visit to the US was extended by the onset of the COVID pandemic, was provided a sleep apnea machine by the AAHPO.

AAHPO treasurer Joyce Kurdian, DMD addressed fundraising and updates to the AAHPO website with a directory of healthcare professionals who are AAHPO members. This will make it easy for Armenian Americans to locate and connect with Armenian healthcare professionals.

AAHPO recording secretary Debra Ferman, MD reported on a remarkable effort to get more than one ton of medical and surgical supplies to Armenia during the pandemic and the Artsakh War. Dr. Ferman noted that many individuals and institutions donated supplies, equipment and their time to collect, pack and send all that had been collected. She thanked Rita Asoyan and Knights of Vartan members Mike Halebian, Jr., Saro Hartounian, Seta Bairamian, Alvart Spenjian and Lucine Kinoian. She noted that when the supplies arrived in Yerevan, Dr. Hambardzum Simonyan, director of AAHPO’s CME program in Armenia, ensured the items reached their intended destinations. 

Dr. Najarian invited any health care providers traveling to Armenia this year to contact AAHPO, as providers would be welcome to share their skill sets with Armenian doctors and nurses. 

AAHPO corresponding secretary Lynn Cetin, MD reported on another AAHPO fundraising effort, the sale of luxury candles through Next Stop Candles. Two candles have been created specifically for the Armenian community, one candle to celebrate Yerevan, and another candle to celebrate Artsakh. A third candle may be in development. The net profits from the candle sales benefit the AAHPO CME program in Armenia.

Dr. Najarian then turned to the presentation of the AAHPO-Najarian Family Scholarship. Eligible candidates must be matriculated in a graduate healthcare program and be recipients of an Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) academic scholarship. “We recognize that graduate healthcare programs are very costly, and our goal is to provide as much assistance as possible to a deserving, individual student,” Dr. Najarian said.

Dr. Balalian has impressive credentials which include a medical degree earned in Yerevan and a Masters in Public Health earned at an American University of Armenia program that AAHPO Board Member Kim Hekimian, PhD, helped establish. Dr. Balalian has now earned a PhD in epidemiology at Columbia University.

Dr. Najarian noted that Dr. Balalian has given his time to AAHPO and other Armenian causes.

“Your support inspires me to give back even more,” said Dr. Balalian, who attended the brunch with his wife Ruzan, a social worker. “Just as AAHPO and AGBU are helping me, I want to help our Armenian community in whatever ways I can.”

This is the second time the scholarship has been presented to a student in a graduate healthcare program. The first recipient was Paul Asadourian, now a fourth-year medical student at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University.

Dr. Najarian closed the event with reminders of upcoming AAHPO events in June, July and October: “We are back and we are welcoming all of you to come join with us, as we are stronger together.”

AAHPO Officers and Board Members who spoke at the event are (from left) Lawrence V. Najarian, MD, Lynn Cetin, MD, Joyce Kurdian, DMD, Debra Ferman, MD and Garbis Baydar, MD.
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