CHLA to Join Armenian EyeCare Project for Summer Mission to Armenia

Dr. Thomas Lee, Director of the Vision Center at Children’s Hospital L.A., screens a child in Armenia during a past Mission Trip with AECP

LOS ANGELES—The Armenian EyeCare Project is gearing up for its Medical Mission to Armenia and has recruited pediatric staff from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to join them on the journey. The Mission trip, which takes place July 15 – 27, will focus heavily on training local physicians and medical staff in Armenia.

A longtime partner of the Armenian EyeCare Project, Children’s Hospital L.A. has been instrumental in the success of the AECP’s pediatric program in Armenia—dedicated to advancing eye care for infants and children in the country and eliminating preventable blindness caused by childhood eye disease. Developed in 2010, the program has screened over 20,000 infants in Armenia and has saved the sight of more than 200 babies through surgery. This includes the delicate treatment for retinopathy of prematurity, a devastating eye disease that affects babies born prematurely and leads to blindness if left untreated.

Neonatal Simulation Center

Due to the continued cooperation between AECP and CHLA, a cutting-edge Neonatal Simulation Center has opened in Armenia and is located inside the AECP’s Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Childhood Blindness in Yerevan.

With innovative new equipment, like neonatal simulators, brought to Armenia, the Simulation Center is being used to train medical staff in advanced pediatric care for premature infants in Armenia. This staff includes neonatologists, nurses, gynecologists, maternity hospital midwives and others. More than 70 specialists have been trained at the Center so far with more training scheduled by AECP and CHLA physicians during the Medical Mission this month.

School Screening Program

The Armenian EyeCare Project has also been visiting schools across Armenia to screen students for eye disease since 2004 and in this time the organization has screened nearly 175,000 children and conducted public education lessons for over 15,000 students in the country.

Working with Children’s Hospital L.A., the EyeCare Project has recently launched a larger-scale School Screening Program, which uses innovative technology including specialized cameras to detect common eye diseases found among children. Screenings in schools are essential for the early detection and prevention of eye disorders among these children in Armenia. For many eye diseases, time is critical and detecting a condition early can be crucial in saving a child from severe vision impairment and possible blindness.

As children get screened in schools across the country, the EyeCare Project will collect and provide information on the primary eye disorders found among these children to detect, and possibly prevent, these diseases in the future. Because of this program, children who would otherwise go without regular eye check-ups are being screened and treated for eye conditions some do not even realize they have. The most common conditions have been nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, though some children also show signs of amblyopia or “lazy eye,” strabismus or “cross eye,” and even cataracts.

Iveta is one child who was diagnosed with strabismus, only after noticing a change in her appearance and being made fun of for the way her eyes looked by other children at her school. Detecting these conditions in advance means that children can not only avoid vision loss and potential blindness, but they could also avoid the emotional pain and heartache often associated with these diseases.

Through this extended School Screening Program, the AECP intends to screen every school-aged child in Armenia in hopes of detecting eye disease early on and preventing vision problems and possible blindness for the future of the country’s next generation.

International Conference

During the Mission trip, the Armenian EyeCare Project will also be holding its 17th medical conference in Armenia alongside Children’s Hospital L.A. and the Armenian Ministry of Health. The AECP-CHLA 17th International Conference on Ophthalmology, Neonatology and Endocrinology will be held at the Armenia Marriott Hotel in Yerevan July 22 – 23, and will encompass new research and best practices in these three key medical areas. A retinal conference along with cornea, neuro ophthalmology, glaucoma, and cataracts will also take place on July 24.

Participants will be physicians and field professionals traveling to Armenia from world-renowned hospitals and universities, and will include ophthalmologists, neonatologists, endocrinologists, nurses, healthcare managers, healthcare policy makers and others.

The Armenian EyeCare Project is proud to be working with Children’s Hospital L.A. to bring revolutionary new programs to Armenia and advanced care to all residents in the country, including its smallest and most vulnerable members: its children.

“We’re happy to report that we have gone beyond the time of repairing eyes to improve sight to now preventing diseases that will result in vision loss and possible blindness, thereby standing behind our mission and pledge to eliminate preventable blindness in Armenia,” stated AECP Founder and President, Dr. Roger Ohanesian. “The doctors of CHLA and AECP are pleased with our mutual respect for vision and the charitable basis of our efforts. It has been a partnership that has benefited Armenia the most.”

With cutting-edge medical equipment, highly trained local staff and invaluable support from the Armenian Diaspora, Armenia is evolving into a country where preventative healthcare is being practiced and is a priority.

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