ARMENIA—Since being founded in 1992, medical education and training has been the cornerstone of the Armenian EyeCare Project and its strategy to deliver quality eye care to Armenia. What began as a group of volunteer U.S. physicians traveling to Armenia on twice-yearly Medical Missions to treat patients soon evolved into an opportunity to offer advanced medical education and training for physicians in Armenia – a living, breathing program that continues to work while U.S. physicians are away.
Following the EyeCare Project’s first few trips to Armenia it became clear that to have a long-term sustainable impact on eye care in the country, local physicians in Armenia would need to acquire a much higher skill level and receive extensive education and training. To accomplish this and enable physicians in Armenia to treat their patients independently, at a level comparable to the U.S., the organization established its Fellowship Program in 1996.
After carefully evaluating the skill level and potential of each fellowship candidate in Armenia, the EyeCare Project selected eight of the country’s most promising eye surgeons and sponsored them to receive one-year fellowships to study and train in their selected specialty at some of the best medical institutions in the U.S. Following their fellowships, these physicians would return to Armenia to establish and direct clinics in their specialty including retina, glaucoma, cornea, neuro-orbital, pediatrics and low vision.
This Fellowship Program has been so successful that the EyeCare Project has launched its second phase: the Next Generation Fellowship Program, an accredited program that gives Armenia’s second generation of ophthalmologists the same opportunity to receive advanced education and intensive training in their specialty as the Fellows before them.
After an exhaustive application process, six top-performing candidates have been selected as the AECP’s Next Generation Fellows. For the past year, these physicians have observed and learned under the direction of the AECP’s past Fellows at their Subspecialty Clinics in Yerevan.
They now have the opportunity to travel to the U.S. and continue their education and training at some of the best medical institutions for three-month fellowships in their respective specialties, which include cornea; retina; glaucoma; oculoplastics and pediatric ophthalmology.
These Fellows will learn and train under the direction of some of the most skilled ophthalmologists in the U.S. at institutions that include Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; Jules Stein Eye Institute; Massachusetts Eye and Ear; Wills Eye Hospital and more. They will then return to Armenia with the knowledge and skills needed to give their patients top quality care.
“Our principle effort is to educate. Our ultimate goal is to allow Armenians to take care of themselves,” Armenian EyeCare Project Founder and President Dr. Roger Ohanesian said. “These young doctors are eager to learn the most modern techniques in their specialty and return to Armenia to offer their patients the highest quality of care and to teach colleagues in their field all they have learned. But first they need our help.”
NextGen Fellows are in need of sponsors for their U.S. fellowships. The cost to sponsor one Fellow in full for their three-month U.S. Fellowship is $15,000. “Sponsoring this program would be another great example of our dedicated Diaspora helping our ancestral homeland of Armenia and its physicians to develop new and life-changing medical skills,” Dr. Ohanesian said. “It would literally change lives, not just for the physicians but for the countless patients they treat.”
You can help support this critical medical education and training program by sponsoring a Fellow in full or in part to come to the U.S. for their Fellowship; underwriting a Fellow’s expense while they are in the U.S.; or donating what you can to the AECP’s Medical Education and Training Fund.
There are also naming opportunities for those who sponsor a Fellow, whether as an individual, organization or group of family and friends. Best yet, you can be the reason an ophthalmologist in Armenia gets the advanced training they need to provide quality eye care to residents in their country.
You can learn more about the AECP’s Next Generation Fellowship Program, and also get to know the six new Fellows in an informative Q&A about their inspirations, goals and ultimate dreams for Armenia by visiting the Armenian EyeCare Project website. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact the AECP office at 949-933-4069 or send an email .