Armenian American Wellness Center: Over 4,000 Lives Saved

American Times with Executive Director- Mrs. Khachanush Hakobyan (center) and US Ambassador to Armenia- Mr. John Heffern

Over 4,000 lives saved via the Western Standard

 

Executive Director Mrs. Khachanush Hakobyan delivers an ideal message to every reader: “The family is in the basis of the country, and in the basis of every family is the mother.” We couldn’t agree more.

 

How did the Wellness Center project get started?

In 1995 our two founders, Mrs. Hranush Hakobyan and Mrs. Rita Palyan attended a conference in China and here they listened to Mrs. Hillary Clinton speak about the importance of mammography. This moment marked the beginning of everything. And in 1997 we opened a small department for mammography scans with American doctors performing patient screenings.

Initially the Center had an average of only two to three patients per day, but gradually word started to spread, people were talking about us and more importantly, the importance of this exam to their families, neighbors, and friends. This is heartening to see because besides working daily to save lives our main mission is to create awareness and educate people about this subject and alerting women to perform an annual checking.

The results of these activities are tremendous. I am happy to report that after two years we have an average of 30 to 35 patients per day.

 

How open are Armenian women in proactively performing this exam?

This is actually a very big difficulty, because the mentality of the Armenian people is very conservative. They usually do not like doctors, do not like to be examined and usually wait until the last stages before doing something. Not only in regarding mammography but also regarding other health issues, both in Yerevan and other regions of the country. But we are very active. We organize regional missions where we go to remote regions of the country and perform mammography screenings for women free of charge.

 

Aside from your fantastic work identifying one of the most common forms of cancer; what other unique opportunities are available to the Armenian people?

Yes, we have been managed to develop and open important departments in related areas such as Gynecology. This was our second project and, again, our center was the first to provide Pap-smear tests in Armenia.

In addition to mammograms and pap-smears for women our founders started a third service, the bone density examinations. In 2006 they brought the first Bone Density scan machine to Armenia. This is not only for women but for men. Expanding further on services related to men we’ve begun performing screenings for prostate cancer, since 2011 in a separate department. As with women, we needed to educate our men on the importance of performing this important examination regularly.

Today we are proud to have 8 Radiologists (that screen around 100-120 people per day), 2 Gynecologists, one Urologist, one Family Doctor – Endocrinologist and 2 Cytologists. Our most recent project to be opened February 2013 is our dental clinic and also our surgery rooms that are completely finished and the equipment already paid for. The goal is to be a full American type clinic with students being able to even perform their required 6-month internships from the Medical University.

But naturally one of the factors that made all of this development possible and made all of our funder’s projects a reality was the fact that the Government donated to us this building, after noticing the importance of our work, saving lives in a daily basis. We still have many ideas, but for now we do not have the enough funds to make it happen all at once.

 

With all these successes and support; is your center becoming noticed on the international level?

Our diagnoses are very accurate and well respected in the international health community. Many times after being diagnosed with breast cancer, people with more money go to Russia, France, Germany or Belgium to attend to their treatments. We’ve had many responses from foreign doctors who were very surprised with the precise diagnoses that we delivered. They’ve learned to trust our diagnoses and we have developed strong cooperation based on the patient’s needs.

 

What are the center’s main goals for the future?

After 15 years of activity we have saved more than 4,000 lives and have screened more than 300,000 people because they have learned to come to us proactively, without feeling any symptoms, it was just for their regular check-up. However, we are aware that we could do more.

Today we have Digital Mammography, but still no MRI or X-ray machines for more complex diagnoses. For that we must go to Tbilisi. We are working with our founders to fill in these gaps as we speak. For instance, a modern MRI machine is absolutely essential in replacing the antiquated machines we have now as we must be able to provide more complete, detailed and accurate exams in the future.

 

What would you identify as the key to the center’s success thus far?

The most important thing is the relations we have with our founders. We have permanent and excellent communication channels and they understand what the clinic needs and try everything possible or within their grasp to provide it.

The clinic is now very well respected and has a reputation for excellence in the services it provides. Today 40% of our patients are from outside Yerevan, and every time we go to these regions people recognize us. It is a very good sign when we talk about spreading awareness of this issue among our population. The media also plays an important role in spreading this message. I always personally transmit these messages through them, every time I can without a proxy or spokesperson.

 

What would be your final message to our American partners?

We need powerful partners like the United States. We want to learn from US experience, to be able to develop into a more modern country with modern services and we want our responsibilities to grow: If we work hard we can build another clinic, we have the space for it. Regarding the importance of the work performed by our clinic, there is a saying in Armenia: “The family is in the basis of the country, and in the basis of every family is the mother.” Therefore, if the mother is healthy, the country is also healthy.

 

Contact info

www.aawc.am (Armenia)

www.healthiernation.org (US)

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