Fresno medical mission serves patients in Armenia’s Lori Region

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It’s a picturesque spot in Northern Armenia’s Lori Region. Beautiful hillsides with cows and horses grazing freely in the distance. And the people of seven near-by villages line up at the Dsegh Health Center hoping to meet American doctors offering free care. “In this clinic there are not specialists, only family doctors,” says clinic director Dr. Suren Abkaryan.
But the specialists from Fresno have arrived. Like Physical Therapist Kristina Koroyan, and cardiologist Dr. Dickran Gulesserian. “I saw a patient yesterday who needed a pacemaker and she goes I can’t afford it and I said why? Well, there’s no insurance here,” Dr. Gulesserian says.
A steady stream of men, women and children wanting a free check-up. Lilith Assadourian and Marion Karian are with the mission’s pediatric team. They’re offering early childhood screening– a rare service in Armenia. “In Armenia, there are very limited resources available to families who have children with suspected developmental delays,” Assadourian says. “And now we’re trying to teach clinic staff to do the developmental screening to identify concerns that might need a higher level of assessment and intervention,” says Karian.
According to Karian, there’s a lack of money and support for families, and disabled children are often sent to orphanages. They hope their work to screen children early, and direct them to help if needed, will help stop that flow.
The importance of early childhood reading is promoted by Fresno pediatrician Dr. Garine Lepejian. A concept embraced by families in our communities, but not so much here. “There’s another issue that some parents don’t know how to read so we have to be careful that they not be intimidated by us giving them books that they can not use,” Dr. Lepejian says. The pediatric team worked with the non-profit Children of Armenia Fund to purchase and distribute 2,000 Armenian story books. A treat for kids visiting the doctor– with lasting benefits. “Once they go to school, books become friends. And it’s not like a chore or study anymore. It’s something joyful that’s attached to their emotions when they had a good time with their parents,” says Dr. Lepejian.
So much work in one small clinic. A full day of screenings and patient care– and a bonus for visiting doctors: a spectacular view outside.

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