LONDON (BBC)–Prime Minister Gordon Brown has appointed a practicing surgeon as a minister at the Department of Health.
Professor Sir Ara Darzi (Terzian), who is charged with improving patient care, has been promoted from his previous role as National Advisor on surgery.
Sir Ara, chair of surgery at Imperial College London, supports government plans to reconfigure NHS services.
When he took over as prime minister, Brown said he planned a broad-based government of "all the talents."
But the Conservatives have criticized the appointment, accusing Sir Ara of having a poor record of supporting access to services for patients and rubber-stamping the deman’s of the Department of Health.
In a report published earlier this year Sir Ara said 80 percent of operations should be carried out on patients in their local area, with the remaining complex cases undertaken at specialist centers by highly skilled surgeons.
Sir Ara will combine his ministerial duties with his research and clinical commitmen’s, including the supervision of students.
Sir Ara, 47, said: "It is a great honour and privilege to be asked by the Prime Minister to continue that work for patients across the country. "I will be working closely with Alan Johnson to map out the next steps of the reform agenda that has achieved so much in the last 10 years. But we can do better."
Sir Ara is one of the world’s leading surgeons, specializing in the field of minimally invasive and robot-assisted surgery, having pioneered many new techniques and technologies.
Professor Darzi joined Imperial College London in 1994, becoming Head of Division in 2004. During this time he has also served on the Department of Health’s National Modernization Board, the NHS Executive and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence. As well as pioneering robot-assisted surgery, he has helped develop new training methods, involving the use of virtual reality to allow surgeons to practice their skills.
Professor Darzi was born in Iraq but spent much of his childhood in Ireland. In 2003 he became a British citizen. He was awarded a knighthood in 2003 for his services to medicine and surgery.
Dr. Darzi’s father, Vartkes, is a retired civil and structural engineer who was the first Iraq-born Armenian to study at the University of California in Berkeley in the late 1940’s.
The son of a Genocide survivor, Vartkes (Terzian) Darzi settled in Dublin after graduation and started a family in a city which did not even have an Armenian community.
"I used to travel a lot, working in many countries in the Middle East, while Ara and his sister stayed home with my wife. But we were a very close-knit Armenian family and I have raised Ara as an Armenian," Vartkes Darzi said.
"Unfortunately, we did not have a large circle of Armenian friends, something which I want my son to start doing. I have retired, and London is our home now, and it is such an advantage to be involved with the Armenian community," he said.
While not involved in things Armenian, Dr. Darzi remains greatly interested in Armenian issues.
But in a recent interview, Dr. Darzi said he would "really like to take my knowledge to Armenia. I would love to visit and do something constructive there.
"I have not had the chance until now, but I hope to get more involved in the coming years. I want to go to my roots. I have served in many countries around the world. Why not also Armenia?" he said.
"I would like to volunteer and even take some essential equipment to Armenia to train other doctors there. All I need is the right opportunity." he said.