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A Look Back to Giving Health, Wholeness and Hope in Armenia

News, Heart Health

Caring for the whole person—body, mind and spirit—is the cornerstone of patient care at Adventist Health Glendale. The medical center’s mission is to improve the health of communities and to be an example of God's love by inspiring wholeness and hope.

Interventional cardiologist and structural heart disease specialist, Dr. Sarkis Kiramijyan, puts that mission into action—dedicating his career to helping patients with a variety of heart conditions. He grew up in Hollywood and Glendale, spent many consecutive years volunteering and working at Adventist Health Glendale throughout his high school and college years, and later returned to the area after his advanced medical fellowship training on the East Coast in order to serve the communities that had encouraged his love for medicine.

Furthermore, he is also passionate about serving a community more than 7,000 miles from home. Dr. Kiramijyan cofounded Gateway Industry Inc., a nonprofit humanitarian organization that, through the support of its 500+ professional members, strengthens war-torn communities of Armenia. In previous years, the group aided in rebuilding six elementary schools and building multiple conjoined community administration centers and health clinics in the war-torn region of Artsakh.

Since joining Adventist Health as a staff physician, Dr. Kiramijyan also travels to Armenia annually with the official medical mission teams sponsored by Adventist Health, providing health care to people in need and training local physicians. In December 2020 he took a 10-day mission trip to the country, assessing the needs of wounded soldiers hospitalized at 14 hospitals throughout Armenia.

An important project during this trip was providing training in the REBOA (Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta) technique—a minimally invasive technique using a balloon catheter to temporarily reduce bleeding in large vessels, thus delivering necessary oxygen to the heart and brain, and ultimately reducing hemorrhage to stabilize a patient and allow time for subsequent emergent surgery . During times of trauma, getting to the wounded artery early and preventing additional blood loss is directly related to the patient’s survival rate.

Dr. Kiramijyan and his team trained 40 Armenian cardiologists and vascular surgeons in utilizing the REBOA technique. “That project was met with a lot of enthusiasm and gratefulness on the part of the physicians because they didn't know about this technique and they saw the significant value in its utility,” he shares.

Medtronic, a medical device company, made a substantial humanitarian donation of balloon-tipped catheters to be used for this purpose—Dr. Kiramijyan’s team taught the medical professionals on how to use these catheters on special training simulators, to be ultimately utilized for wounded soldiers in the field who were hemorrhaging and could die in a matter of minutes.

“These young soldiers incurred some of the worst possible injuries you can imagine during the war,” he explains. “They didn't have any way to stabilize the hemorrhage before being taken to the hospital for emergency surgery. This REBOA technique, along with the specialized catheters will be very helpful to limit the blood loss and potentially save their lives.”

Thanks to the support of Gateway Industry Inc., Dr. Kiramijyan distributed funds to about 40 of the most underserved soldiers and their families who had been evacuated from their homes during the war and were facing winter and needed a place to live. Some of them were living in bunkers, tents, with neighbors or friends, and some families of the wounded soldiers were even temporarily staying with the patient at the hospital.

Dr. Kiramijyan returned to Armenia for another mission trip in June 2021 to do clinical work at the hospital at Yerevan State Medical University. Adventist Health Glendale donated catheters for cardiac heart biopsies, and Dr. Kiramijyan taught the Armenian physicians on how to use the biopsy catheters and perform other advanced interventional procedures including high-risk complex interventions for patients with chronic total occlusions for the most underserved patients in Armenia.

The second objective for the June 2021 trip was the Symposium on Cardiovascular Diseases and Therapies held in Yerevan. Directed by Dr. Kiramijyan and two other physicians, this two-day advanced master's course in interventional, structural, and surgical cardiovascular disease treatment was the first of its type ever held in Armenia. There were 100 people in live attendance and others participated remotely.

“It was a great educational event for the local doctors, residents and fellows in training,” he says. “The positive reactions from them were overwhelming and heartwarming.”

Dr. Kiramijyan plans to make the conference an annual event, so he is preparing to go back again this year. “Adventist Health has a great philosophy as a Christian organization to give back to the needy and underserved,” he says. “I'm very much in line with that philosophy, and I admire and greatly appreciate Adventist Health’s support and encouragement.”

Thank you for all of your efforts, Dr. Kiramijyan!