had no role in the dressing of wounds or monitoring
of vital signs. Indeed, patient families were encouraged and expected to attend to the patients’ nursing
and feeding needs.
It was apparent that U.S. surgeons who would
travel to Armenia to volunteer their services would
be unable to communicate in a common language
with their colleagues regarding day-to-day patient
management. Teams of surgeons, anesthesiologists,
and nurses would have to be formed to be effective
Alternatively, patients could be flown to a western
country for reconstructive surgery. Unfortunately, to
be suitable for this option, patients would have to be
strong enough to sit in an airplane seat for many hours
of flight, making it an impractical solution for those
patients who most needed our care.
On our return to the U.S., the leadership of the
Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU)—a not-
for-profit organization established in 1906 to care for
Armenians in the diaspora—asked for my assessment of
the situation. It was my belief that the only meaningful
long-term solution for the many patients who could not
travel would be to train a team of Armenian physicians
and nurses in the Western team approach in the U.S.
and return them to their country to treat those patients.
We could subsequently assist in training additional
teams to sustain this work, but this approach would
require a serious commitment of time and money.
To my surprise, the AGBU, under the leadership
of president Louise Manoogian Simone (1989–2002),
accepted this challenge and quickly raised $500,000
from private donors. Shortly thereafter, AGBU
r. Ariyan’s first visit
with patients after
FEB 2016 BULLETIN American College of Surgeons
EMPOWERING SURGEONS IN ARMENIA
Letter from the ECFMG offering to serve as sponsoring
organization for the physicians from Armenia.