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Adventist Health Saves Lives in Armenia

Philanthropy For the fourth year, Adventist Health Glendale and Adventist Health White Memorial partnered with Armenia Fund for Compassion in Action – Mission Armenia, a medical mission from Sept. 22 through Oct. 5 that delivered critical care, life-saving surgeries and medical expertise. This year's mission was made possible by the generous support of donors, including Mr. Hacop Baghdassarian’s wife Hilda and his family.

Men, women and children seeking treatment filled hallways at Noyemberyan Hospital and Stepanakert Republican Medical Center in Artsakh. Among them was a 48-year-old man with a brain aneurysm. Without emergency treatment, he may have died. Alice Issai, president of Adventist Health Glendale, one of 60 volunteer medical missionaries from two sister hospitals in Los Angeles, recalls that moment. “He thought his only option was flying to St. Petersburg, Russia," she said. “It felt like a miracle when we could help him.” Mikayel Grigoryan, MD, Armenian-born AHGL interventional neurologist, worked side-by-side to mentor doctors in Artsakh and save the man's life. “I saw God’s work in front of my eyes," said Issai. "We worked as a team to carry out our hospital’s mission of Living God’s love by inspiring health, wholeness and hope… for Armenia."


The group of missionaries from Adventist Health Glendale and Adventist Health White Memorial saw the mission as an opportunity to provide sustainable care. They also believe it is their duty for the diaspora to help create a better Armenia…and help Armenians overcome challenges they have endured as a nation.

“We helped develop the foundation of healthcare to increase life expectancies,” said Arby Nahapetian, MD, regional medical officer, Adventist Health Southern California. “To create sustainability, we educated and trained local physicians and nurses so they can provide the same care in exponential numbers. This is critical for Armenia’s development, future security and growth.”


One older male was diagnosed with a severe heart condition. His only chance to live was open heart surgery in Yerevan—a five-hour drive from Artsakh, and the cost would be a devastating $30,000. “We removed the burden from him,” Issai said. Adventist Health Glendale and the Health Ministry of Karabakh covered the cost. “We made a difference in a life, and that’s what matters."

The numbers were impressive for a mission this size. Our volunteer team performed 270 procedures and major surgeries ranging from total knee replacements and hysterectomies to life-saving cath lab cases in cardiology, neurology and electrophysiology. Another 2,240 visits and consultations were given to primary care, oncology, gynecology and pediatric patients, both at the two hospitals and in the surrounding villages where free prescriptions were also distributed.

Every patient came with a story and the concerns were critical. “The health issues that women live with are heart-wrenching,” said Ramella Markarian, AHGL business development executive.  We did as much as we could to help.” Laurence Spencer-Smith, MD, obstetrics and gynecology, Adventist Health White Memorial, performed numerous surgeries that changed lives forever. “With his healing hands he ended the suffering of women living with uterine and bladder prolapses, and disabling gynecologic disorders, which are easily treated in the U.S.,” Markarian added.


How did the Armenian people express gratitude? It came in bountiful amounts of tears, hugs and hospitality. A special meeting with Mr. Arsen Torosyan, Health Minister of Armenia, began an important conversation at a higher level. This opportunity to meet with dignitaries speaks volumes about their gratitude towards the missionaries…to create a better Armenia, according to Nahapetian.

The mission concluded with patient visits in the villages of Harav, Shushi and Krasni in Artsakh. A seamless operation included a triage area, primary care physician consults, education and free medication for the villagers. A special tribute was paid to the Baghdassarian family in Krasni, where a community center was made possible by the generosity of Hacop and Hilda Baghdassarian.