By Alin K. Gregorian
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Massachusetts is a Mecca of medical schools and doctors. Therefore, it is no surprise that there is a medical group — the Armenian American Medical Association, Inc. (AAMA) — whose membership is composed of local Armenian-American doctors. The members of the group gathered earlier this month at the Elephant Walk restaurant in Cambridge to introduce a colleague from Stepanakert, Karabagh, who was visiting for a month to learn about the latest techniques in emergency medicine.
Dr. Mher Musaelian is a pediatric anesthesiologist at the main hospital in Stepanakert. He had come here through the efforts of Dr. Armen Arslanian, the president of the AAMA, for a month-long study of emergency medicine at Winchester Hospital. His visit was facilitated through Armenia Fund.
Musaelian, who was born and raised in Stepanakert, witnessed war as a young boy. Because of his education, he has had the opportunity to leave his homeland, but has chosen to stay and to try to improve the state of emergency medicine there.
As Arslanian said, “His ideal life is in Karabagh. He is proud of being from there.” He explained some of the difficulties that medical staff experience there, the majority of which can be summed up by lack of funds and equipment.
“They don’t have the stuff we take for granted, such as CAT Scans,” which he said can typically provide physicians with a lot of information that can help speed up diagnosis and thus medical aid.
The nursing program, Arslanian said, is a short two years. It is during work in the hospitals that the nurses learn what to do. And finally, there are no emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Patients with especially difficult situations are loaded into an ambulance and sent off to Yerevan, which is about seven hours away, along with a doctor and nurse.
“His [Musaelian’s] training is going to be crucial if and when war happens,” he added.
Musaelian himself spoke, thanking his colleagues and explaining about the existing hospital in Stepankert, as well as a new one that is scheduled to be finished soon, sponsored by Russian-Armenian benefactor Samvel Kapartian.
Musaelian explained there are three amblualce teams on call at any point, consisting of a doctor, a nurse and a driver, who go to the address of the callers who dial the emergency number (103). He explained that part of the plans for the future is for Karabagh to have EMTs, with doctors staying in the hospital and advising the EMTs on the phone. In addition, he explained that ambulances have basically no equipment that can help patients, but are instead simply modes of transportation, unlike the ones here.
Musaelian thanked Arslanian and Armenia Fund for giving him a chance to study in the US for a month, as well as AAMA Vice President Dr. Armineh Mirzabegian for her hospitality. He also expressed his gratitude to Dr. Gregory Ciottone, the director of the Intentional Disaster and Emergency Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, for giving him suggestions and helping him.
Ciottone, who is not Armenian but married to one, Amalia, a registered nurse, spoke about his more than 20 visits to Armenia to help with emergency medicine there and said he would be happy to do the same in Karabagh.
Mirzabegian next surprised the outgoing treasurer of the group, Dr. Varant Hagopian, with a tribute. She noted that Hagopian has been active not only in the medical circles but in other organizations, including the Friends of Armenian Culture Society.
“The meetings would not be the same if we did not have the treasurer’s report, with Varant asking us to contribute to the scholarship fund by reminding us that ‘education is the salvation of our people.’ His love of poetry has been evident when he presented gifts to our speakers with the use of such eloquent words,” Mirzabegian said. “We thank you for all you have done and for your continued support and enthusiasm to keep alive the organization.”
Fittingly, the group presented him with books from the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR).
A very emotional Hagopian thanked those gathered for their gift.