Transformation from a Soviet Centralized System of Care
The EyeCare Project’s mission is to eliminate preventable blindness in Armenia and to provide access to quality eye care to all Armenians regardless of their economic status. To accomplish its mission the Project is building capacity — human resources and facilities — in Armenia, which will enable Armenians to develop a sustainable eye care delivery system and independently provide quality eye care to the Armenian people.
When Roger Ohanesian, along with other American doctors including Rick Hill and Sarkis Soukiasian first visited the Republican Eye Hospital in Yerevan (now S.A. Malayan Ophthalmological Center) in the early 1990s, there were literally cats roaming the hospital for food. As well, electricity went on and off during surgeries leaving Rick Hill with only a pen light to complete his delicate eye surgery. In the nearly 25 years since these first visits the landscape of Armenian ophthalmology has undergone a major transformation.
This transformation has been accomplished by building Armenia’s physical facilities capacity — equipment, supplies, medication — through donations from individuals and medical manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies. Long-time and loyal donors include Allergan, Alcon, Bausch & Lomb, Pfizer and many others and to date the Project has donated more than $87 million in equipment, supplies and pharmaceuticals to the country of Armenia.
New physical facilities, all outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment, include a medical education, library and diagnostic center; a $1 Million Wet Lab donated by Pfizer (for teaching); a Center of Excellence for the Elimination of Infant and Childhood Blindness; seven subspecialty clinics — retina, glaucoma, corneal-uveitis, neuro-orbital, pediatrics, low vision and ROP; two Regional Eye Clinics with another three in development; and the Mobile Eye Hospital. All of these facilities have expanded Armenia’s ability to deliver quality eye care throughout the country to all those in need.
The Project has also built Armenia’s human resource capacity through medical education and training programs for more than one thousand physicians and ancillary medical personnel. This includes nine one-year ophthalmological fellowships in the United States sponsored by the Project; 750 family medicine doctors along with ophthalmological nurses trained in basic ophthalmology and referrals; doctors and nurses in NICUs along with pediatricians and obstetricians trained in the diagnosis and management of Retinopathy of Prematurity; and annual conferences, seminars and continuing education.
Watch “Cats in the Hospital” to see Armenia’s transformation from a centralized Soviet system of eye care to a country-wide decentralized system of quality eye care — the most advanced ophthalmology program in the Caucuses where patients are now coming to Armenia for eye care.