One of our own, Dr. Armen Chalian, was recently part of an outreach team of 32 doctors, nurses and social workers that delivered care to 750 patients and performed 58 surgeries in Yerevan, Armenia. The two-week mission resulted in six medical “firsts” in that country and was conducted under the auspices of Arpan Global Charities, a philanthropic medical organization with outreaches in more than 14 countries. The multidisciplinary team comprised professionals from St. Joseph Hospital of Orange, Calif., and Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).
The Medical “Firsts”
During the mission, the team performed and recorded six medical procedures never done in Armenia. Dr. Chalian said, “We recorded everything as part of a program to ensure that Armenian physicians could continue these techniques in the future.”
Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) for decortication and lung resection was among the first-time procedures. The team also introduced techniques for postoperative pain management, such as ultrasound-guided blocks and the ON-Q pain relief system, a pump catheter pain relief method that reduces the need for opioid drugs and that can improve patient outcomes. Other firsts included laparoscopic gynecologic, urinary incontinence and several pediatric laparoscopic surgeries.
Dr. Chalian said that, aside from the obvious goals of treating patients and delivering equipment in Armenia, the medical team sought to establish long-term relationships with health care professionals in the country. “Part of our goal was to create programs, such as sister hospital networks, to make sure the medical advances introduced could be maintained by appropriately trained clinicians in Armenia.”
The Medical Mission Team
From St. Joseph Hospital, the team included Allied Anesthesia physician Dr. Armen Chalian, as well as Drs. Brian Palafox, Paul Beck and Bedros Kojian and, Medical Social Worker Marjorie MacDonald. The CHOC team included Drs. Sudeep Kukreja and Mary Zupanc, Registered Nurse Specialists Kristine Golden and Cindy Baker-Fox, and residents Drs. Hillary Zieve, Sneha Kemkar, Kindra Lindrith, Jacob Khoubian and Stephanie Lee.
The volunteers brought thousands of dollars in medical equipment and supplies from the United States, including sutures, medications, laparoscopic surgical supplies and pulse oximeters with transcutaneous hemoglobin capabilities. The team was interviewed on local television and was featured in local and online media services.
Dr. Chalian said, “We made several inroads toward shaping the future of Armenia’s health care system—things like establishing care team protocols and checklists, the importance of ‘skin-to-skin’ newborn bonding and lactation programs. We also emphasized important social health issues like advocating protective care services for women and children.”