One Summer is Not Enough!

COAF intern Lousine Agasarkisian with patients in Armenia.

Entry by Lousine Aga-Sarkisian, COAF Intern, Birthright Armenia Volunteer

I’ve come to realize that a summer in Armenia is not enough-not enough to see the land my parents are from and definitely not enough to feel satisfied helping my people. But, I have determined that a summer is enough time to learn about the needs of the people here and to recognize my love for my culture.

I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, a city with very few Armenians. Yet, my family has always worked to keep me and my siblings learning and interested in our culture. As a first year medical student at Morehouse School of Medicine, I knew I had this one summer to work or play and decided that through Birthright Armenia I could do both! My internship at Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) has filled both of those categories as the people here are so light hearted and so passionate about their work that it no longer seems like work. My first year of medical school brought me many challenges, and I had somewhat lost my motivation. My first day at COAF changed all of that as my three bosses, Lusine Antonyan, Nune Dolyan, and Lusine Sahakyan, (in alphabetical order!) came to the table with so many ideas to help the communities of their target villages. Their passion, efficiency, and constant strive to learn new things has brought my motivation up to a whole new level.

When I found out that healthcare providers associated with the Armenian American Health Professionals Organization (AAHPO) were coming to work with COAF and to see patients in our associated villages, I was more than excited! The first morning, our team went to the polyclinic in Myasnikyan Village, Armavir Marz. When we got there, the physicians, nurses, and even the cleaning lady were running around to help us get the place set up and hospitable for our guests. I spent the first day watching and helping Dr. Garbis Baydar, a pediatrician from New Jersey, as he saw patient after patient. Many of the children this day had sore throat related issues, and Dr. Baydar was prepared as he had brought a strep throat kit. All of the staff was intrigued as this was new for them, and a couple of the children were actually diagnosed. We then went to the Armavir City Hospital where we were taken on a tour and spent some time talking to and eating fruit with the chief physician of the hospital.

I spent the next day with Dr. Lucy Tovmasian, an obstetrician/gynecologist from New Jersey, as she met with patient after patient. Her experience was a bit different as the women in the villages are definitely not accustomed to our practices in the United States. Patients would come in with their mothers or mother-in-laws, and whole groups of people would stand in the room talking, not providing the patient with the privacy we are accustomed to. We eventually talked to the staff, and I hope that this brought patient privacy to the forefront of the community. The next village we went to was Dsegh, Lori Marz. Dsegh has a completely different vibe. Its landscape is lush and green, and the people live a somewhat more peaceful, potentially less stressful life. All of the patients were so kind and thankful for Dr. Tovmasian’s careful touch and expertise. We recognized that here, a large number of the patients were suffering from some level of pelvic prolapse. Dr. Tovmasian’s dream is to come back and do surgeries for these patients, and I pray her dream becomes a reality.

I can’t express the gratitude I have for my bosses at COAF, my co-intern Anahit Movsesyan, the healthcare providers from AAHPO, the healthcare providers in Myasnikyan and Dsegh, and most importantly the patients in these villages for being tolerant with me and giving me the opportunity to learn and grow from and with them. This summer is one I’ll never forget, and I can’t wait to come back here with more skills and experience to be able to help in a greater magnitude.

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