During the summer of 2017, Dr. Dwayne Baharozian and his family traveled to Armenia to participate in the Armenian EyeCare Project (AECP). Prior to the family’s departure, Dr. Baharozian started a campaign to secure much need surgical supplies and eye drops to be donated. The campaign was an enormous success with generous contributions from the American companies Alcon and Abbott. The next challenge was to get these precious donations shipped across the world to Armenia. Some of the medications and surgical devices needed constant refrigeration. There were many obstacles to overcome, not the least of which was getting these supplies through customs intact and to the designated locations. With perseverance, $250,000 in eyecare supplies safely reached their destination.
The experiences the Baharozian family had in Armenia were life-changing. Working with the Armenian EyeCare Project was amazing! During our time there, the Baharozians were given the opportunity to ‘mentor’ college students from Worcester Polytechnical Institute (WPI) in their project to bring Electronic Medical Records to Armenia so that communication can exist between the capital city, Yerevan and the remote villages. To develop this communication system is paramount to a country that has remote villages not easily reached, nor transportation systems outside the city.
“The Armenian EyeCare Project’s mission is to eliminate preventable blindness in Armenia and to make quality eye care accessible to everyone in the country.”
The AECP was founded after Armenia’s Minister of Health, in late 1991, asked the international community for help in fighting a “growing wave of blindness in Armenia” and for assistance with the country’s serious health crisis. The desperate circumstances in Armenia were a result of a number of widespread factors, all occurring at the same time. In 1988, about 50,000 people perished and countless others were injured in a devastating earthquake; a six-year war between Azerbaijan and Armenia began, resulting in thousands of serious injuries; and 70 years of Soviet (mis)management had devastating effects on Armenia and its progress, especially when it came to medical care infrastructure, the embargos on the East and West, and a number of severe eye diseases and conditions not seen in other countries. In addition to all of this was the alarming rate of juvenile diabetes and diabetes-related conditions.
After visiting Yerevan’s “modern” hospital and traveling to remote “medical clinics”, the Baharozian family was also able to explore the country and learn much about its history and people. Lifelong friends were made and there were experiences that will never be forgotten.
Connor Baharozian remained in Armenia after the rest of the family returned to Westford. As a 3rd year medical student at Boston University School of Medicine, he stayed with the AECP for several more weeks working alongside the founder and director of the Armenian EyeCare Project, Dr. Roger Ohanesian. A truly unique experience and education for all!