The Armenian EyeCare Project has begun 2020 with some great news to mark the extra-special year for our organization and significant number (20/20) in the eye care industry. The first ophthalmologist from our Next Generation Fellowship Program, Dr. Vahan Papoyan, has arrived in the U.S. from Armenia and is currently completing his medical fellowship at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia.
Made possible by donors to our program, Dr. Papoyan’s fellowship focuses on his specialized field of glaucoma and allows the Armenian physician to learn nuances and train alongside some of the best eye care specialists in his field. This advanced education and training will allow Dr. Papoyan to then return to Armenia to treat his patients with the highest level of care.
“As a physician, you try to do everything you can to offer the best possible care to your patients,” Dr. Papoyan said. “So when you have the opportunity to go to the most advanced country and one of the finest medical institutions to learn cutting-edge techniques in glaucoma and eye care, it’s an incredible feeling. It has been the best experience of my life.”
The Armenian EyeCare Project launched our first Fellowship Program in 1997 and over the next decade brought eight ophthalmologists to America for specialty training in retina, glaucoma, cornea, low vision, pediatric ophthalmology and neuro ophthalmology. These original Fellows were sponsored with the help of the late Kirk Kerkorian, who felt medical training of local Armenian physicians would contribute greatly to the elimination of preventable blindness in Armenia, the mission of the AECP.
Following their fellowships, these physicians later returned to Armenia to establish and head Subspecialty Clinics in Yerevan in their fields of expertise, training hundreds of other medical personnel in Armenia on the most advanced techniques in eye care along the way. This includes the AECP’s NextGen Fellows, who have all observed and learned under the direction of our organization’s past Fellows for several years before their opportunity to continue their training with U.S. fellowships of their own.
Today, our Next Generation Fellowship Program offers six of Armenia’s top-performing ophthalmologists – selected and mentored by our original AECP Fellows – the opportunity to travel to the U.S. for three-to-six-month fellowships. During their fellowships, these ophthalmologists will receive advanced medical education and training at some of the best-known U.S. ophthalmic institutions in their specialties.
For Dr. Papoyan, this exchange of knowledge and information from a range of physicians – including first-generation AECP Fellow Dr. Lilit Voskanyan in Armenia to now several glaucoma specialists in the U.S. – has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Different doctors have different techniques so it’s interesting to observe them all and see what works for you and what you can adopt for yourself,” Dr. Papoyan said. “Learning these techniques is so important because I can then utilize them when I return to Armenia to treat my own patients and help my country.”
Dr. Papoyan also considers the chance to witness these surgeries from some of the most renowned ophthalmologists in the U.S. an unbelievable advantage. “Having the unique access to see these surgeries is exciting because you know how revered these doctors are in their field,” he says. “To be able to see their work is incredible.”
Through donor fundraising for the program, the EyeCare Project was able to bring Dr. Papoyan to the U.S. as our organization’s first NextGen Fellow. We also plan to bring the remaining five NextGen Fellows to the U.S. for their specialty fellowships within the year 2020.
Dr. Tatevik Adamyan will train in her specialty of retina at Retina Consultants of Nevada in Las Vegas as well as Haik Humble Eye Center in Louisiana in March; Drs. Zara Dravajyan and Araks Davtyan will train in their specialty of cornea at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute in Los Angeles by April; Dr. Narine Makyan is expected to train in her specialty of pediatric ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles by summer and Dr. Artak Kirakosyan is expected to train in his specialty of oculoplastics at Harvard University’s Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston by fall.
“I am extremely happy for this opportunity but also feel a great responsibility to make those who’ve put so much confidence and investment in me proud,” Dr. Papoyan says. “I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this Next Generation Fellowship Program from AECP Founder Dr. Roger Ohanesian to Armenia’s Chief Ophthalmologist Dr. Alex Malayan to AECP Fellow Dr. Lilit Voskanyan, who has been my mentor in Armenia. And of course, to all the donors of this program who have made my training possible. I would quite literally not be here in the U.S. learning all that I am learning if it were not for you.”
While the AECP is well underway of bringing the next generation of ophthalmologists over from Armenia for their U.S. fellowships, our organization is still in need of support in order to continue this program and allow the remaining Fellows to complete their training.
You can help support this critical medical education and training program by sponsoring a Fellow in full or in part; underwriting a Fellow’s expense while they are in the U.S.; or donating what you can to the AECP’s Medical Education and Training Fund. You can be the reason an ophthalmologist in Armenia gets the advanced training they need to provide quality eye care to residents in their country.