Medical Education and Training is the foundation of the Project’s five-point strategy.
“The Project has left a mark on our hearts that is unforgettable,” said Alex Malayan, Chief Ophthalmologists of the Republic of Armenia and Chief of the Malayan Eye Hospital when discussing the impact of the Armenian EyeCare Project on the country of Armenia and its ophthalmological care for her people.
Medical Education and Training is the foundation — the hallmark — of the Project’s five-point strategy to deliver sustainable eye care to the people of Armenia and it has had a profound impact in providing the human resources necessary to deliver eye care.
The EyeCare Project’s initial effort to train Armenian ophthalmologists were the twice yearly medical missions when American ophthalmologists traveled to Armenia (at their own expense) to treat patients and to train physicians. During their discussions they soon realized that the Armenian ophthalmologists needed more extensive training in their subspecialties and the only way to get this advanced training was to participate in year-long fellowships at the finest medical institutions in the United States.
Armen Vardanyan was the first AECP Fellow, subspecialty retina, in 1998. He spent a year in Southern California at the University of California, Irvine, studying under the tutelage of Dr. Baruch Kuppermann, a world-renowned retina specialist. Following were seven more fellows in glaucoma, corneal-uveitis, neuro orbital, pediatrics, low vision, eye banking and Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP).
Each fellow returned to head their departments — with clinics fully equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment and supplies provided by the Project — and to train their colleagues. Anna Hovakimyan, corneal-uveitis specialist, said, “I was so excited to get back to my country, with so much energy — and a bit of impatience — to share my education with my colleagues. USAID in reviewing the EyeCare Project’s programs said, “That’s what we call sustainability.”
Other Project education and training programs include ROP training for pediatricians, obstetricians, nurses and ophthalmologists; primary care physician training in ophthalmology; specialized education for nurses and ancillary personnel, telesurgery; online education; and conferences, seminars and continuing education.
Alex Malayan, Chief Ophthalmologist of Armenia and Chief of the Malayan Ophthalmology Center said, “The best thing we have gained from the Eye Care Project is confidence. Our doctors know they are some of the best in the world with Russian and other Caucus patients now traveling to Armenia for care.”