Hundreds Come Out to Honor Dr. Edgar Housepian for Dedication to Healthcare


Dr. Edgar Housepian, Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) and president of FAR (Credit: Julie Dermansky)

By Taleen Babayan
Special to the Mirror-Spectator

NEW YORK — On Friday, January 15, more than 400 people gathered to honor Dr. Edgar Housepian, a man whose work has had a major impact on neurological research in the United States and changed the medical landscape of Armenia. The evening also marked the 20th anniversary of the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR), which Housepian helped found in the aftermath of the devastating 1988 earthquake in Armenia.

The event was held at the exquisite Cipriani Wall Street Restaurant, the former headquarters of the National City Bank and the New York Stock Exchange building until the mid-19th century. Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, presided.

Dr. Tavit Najarian serving as master of ceremonies for the evening, welcomed and thanked everyone for their support of the 20th anniversary of FAR.

Chairman of FAR’s Board of Directors, Randy Sapah-Gulian, said he has been fortunate enough to work with Housepian on FAR’s board for the past five years. He noted that throughout FAR’s 20 years under the leadership of Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) and the support of Karekin II, FAR has invested close to $200 million toward projects in Armenia.

Sapah-Gulian shared the stories of people whose lives FAR has touched, including a graduate of FAR’s Gumri Technology Center, a resident of FAR’s Vanadzor Old Age Home and a young girl who found shelter at FAR’s Child Protection Center.

“These people have been helped by what Dr. Housepian originally started,” said Sapah-Gulian.

Housepian’s son, David Housepian, provided a light-hearted account about his father, the “Shish Kebab King.”

“Honoring my dad today confirmed what we already knew: He’s the real deal,” said David Housepian.

FAR prepared a slideshow presentation highlighting Dr. Edgar Housepian’s life and accomplishments, both in the medical field and through FAR.

Datevik Hovanessian and her trio performed Armenian jazz music during dinner.

FAR board member Dr. Aram Chobanian spoke about the academic accomplishments of Dr. Housepian, including his innovative surgical approaches for brain surgery and publication of over 100 articles.

“He’s the consummate physician and a superb role model from here to Armenia,” concluded Chobanian.

Armenia’s Ambassador to the US Tatoul Markarian presented the Mkhitar Heratzi Medal on behalf of Armenia’s President Serge Sargisian, to Edgar Housepian.
“We are here to pay tribute to Dr. Housepian, who established himself in the medical field in the US but has made fruitful contributions to Armenia,” said Markarian, before reading the presidential decree.

Barsamian thanked the organizing committee chaired by Najarian, as well as FAR’s board members and its executive director, Garnik Nanagoulian.

“All of us here have experienced Dr. Housepian’s outpouring of goodwill,” said the Primate. “That’s the meaning of tonight’s tribute: to honor, to be thankful, to be inspired by one man’s goodwill.”

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Legate of the Eastern Diocese, read the letter of Pontifical blessing and appreciation presented by Karekin II to Edgar Housepian. The catholicos also bestowed upon Edgar Housepian the highest lay honor in the Armenian Church, the Soorp Krikor Loosavorich medal.

The letter stated that since the 1988 earthquake in Armenia, Housepian had put his “rich experiences and knowledge at the disposal of the productive enterprise of modernizing health care of Armenia, helping to refurbish the medical establishments technologically, retraining doctors, and strengthening relations between the fatherland and the diaspora.”

“We are gratified that you apply your medical talents to the task of healing our faithful children and our clergymen, an undertaking that is pleasing to God. Through your help, many have been restored to health and remember you with gratitude, praying for your success,” the letter said.

In his remarks, Housepian referred to the late Kevork Hovnanian’s leadership as the first chairman of FAR’s Board of Directors. “He was unique and invaluable,” said Housepian. “He was firm enough to guide us and flexible enough to encourage innovation.”

He added he saw a bright future for FAR under the leadership of Sapah-Gulian. He outlined four goals for the organization: to build a new home for the Armenian National Library of Medicine; expand the Continuing Medical Education program to give doctors from villages training after medical school; continue work on curriculum reform and create an endowment for the Armenian National Science and Education Fund, which supports scientists and scholars with research grants.

“It’s been a great honor for me to lead these programs for the past 20 years and I’m grateful to the Vehapar for being here to present me with such an honor,” said Housepian. “Thank you everyone for making this evening such a wonderful event.”

Catholicos Karekin II expressed his appreciation to everyone for sharing their time and talent with their homeland and for helping to make Armenia stronger.

“During our conversations with him [Dr. Edgar Housepian], we discovered that he worries about Armenia, and cares deeply about our nation’s hardships,” the catholicos said. “He is a person whose heart and soul beat for his homeland. He is devoted and he does his best to help his people.”

The catholicos also expressed his gratitude to Barsamian for his leadership, and for his effort to recognize the people who tirelessly serve the Eastern Diocese.

Edgar Housepian’s interest in medicine emerged at the age of 14, when he started work as an orderly at New York Hospital and there observed neurosurgeries. After spending two years in the Navy, and serving during World War II, he graduated with honors from Columbia College and then from Columbia Medical School in 1953. His career in the medical field flourished, including research, teaching and practicing medicine. He became a professor of clinical neurological surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. He retired in 1997, but has remained active at Columbia University Medical Center. A professorship of neurological surgery was established in his name at Columbia.
Housepian’s father was a physician who went to Armenia at the beginning of the 20th century to help the survivors of the Genocide. Following in his father’s footsteps, Edgar Housepian similarly went to Armenia to help those who had suffered during the 1988 earthquake and helped create FAR. For 20 years he was the vice chairman of FAR’s board of directors and chairman of FAR’s Medical Committee. He helped design a post-graduate Medical Fellowship Program, through which nearly 90 Armenian doctors were brought to the US for additional training. He was also instrumental in supporting Dr. Yervant Terzian’s initiative to create the Armenian National Science and Education Fund (ANSEF) to provide research grants.

He has received many awards and honors, including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1992 and the 2002 Humanitarian Award of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. In 1996, he received Columbia’s Physicians and Surgeons Alumni medal. He also received an honorary doctorate from The Academy of Sciences of Armenia. In 1992, he was named Armenian of the Year by the Eastern Diocese.