FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – The sixth medical mission from Fresno to the country of Armenia is underway. A team of forty doctors and medical experts will spend two weeks providing free care to people who need it. Berj Apkarian, the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Armenia in Fresno, is the mission leader. “Our agenda is full. our efforts is fruitful,” Apkarian says.
A first stop for the doctors: a history lesson at the Armenian Genocide Monument in Yerevan dedicated to the one and a half million Armenians who lost their lives in the 1915 genocide. Apkarian says it’s important that the mission begins with that visit. “Make them aware that crime against humanity is unacceptable. Not only against Armenians, against any nation,” he says.
An important focus of this mission trip is treating soldiers wounded in last year’s war with neighboring Azerbaijan. Physical therapists are on the team this year, as well as surgeons. Ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Brien Tonkinson of Fresno saw 54 patients on his first day. According to Apkarian, “He was so tired at the end of the day yet people kept coming from the different villages and Brien was with this big heart and compassion– he did not want to turn any patients down.”
While covid is a concern, Apkarian says the team is taking all the necessary precautions. He says the doctors are determined to do what they came to do. “They just want to see patients. They want to deliver the care. They want to meet their own expectation and be gratified with that,” he says.
The team is already planning for next year’s medical mission– year seven. They hope to be joined by doctors from other countries, making it a truly international effort