New US Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern Visits Armenian American Wellness Center

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WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, October 25, the new US Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern, along with his wife, Libby, and Dr. Jatinder Cheema, the director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission, visited the Armenian American Wellness Center in Yerevan. They presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Khachanush Hakobyan, the executive director of the Wellness Center, for the center’s work in providing quality health care to the women of Armenia as a partner to USAID.

“We are honored that Ambassador Heffern chose to visit the Wellness Center within the first month of arriving in Armenia,” said Hakobyan. The Wellness Center has become the hallmark of American expertise and quality and also of the latest technology and medical services in Armenia. American values are reflected in the level of transparency, accountability, and high quality medical care that the Wellness Center holds as its guiding principles. The Armenian American Cultural Association (AACA) is the US sponsor of the Wellness Center.

The Wellness Center, since its inception in April 1997, has been led by two volunteers: Rita Balian and Hranush Hakobyan, the latter currently Armenia’s minister of the diaspora. “This project has become a reality largely because of its dedicated volunteers and the financial support from the Armenian-American community and our longstanding partnership with USAID,” said Balian.

John and Libby Heffern, as well as Cheema, were impressed by the transformation of the Wellness Center building into the modern facility it has become. Less than 10 years ago, the government of Armenia, in appreciation of the work done, donated the land and the Soviet-era building where the clinic was previously located on the first floor to the Wellness Center. The center is registered, incidentally, as the first notfor- profit foundation in Armenia.

Through the hard work and dedication of architect/builder Vartkess Balian, together with architect Osep Sarafian from Detroit, they conceived the new design of the building and supervised the team of local architects and subcontractors, to reconstruct, expand, seismically reinforce and renovate the building to become a state of-the-art, six-story medical and conference center. During the years of construction, AACA worked closely with USAID and has supplemented US government funding with private donations from thousands of Armenian Americans to expand the Wellness Center.

The Wellness Center currently has seven departments, including the newly established Men’s Health Diagnostic Program for prostate cancer screening, a full-time pharmacy and an on-site hematology laboratory, in addition to its existing pathology lab.

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Each day, between 100 to 125 women and men, come to the Wellness Center for services. On the day of the US ambassador’s visit, 127 women and men received medical and diagnostic services. For those who are unable to travel to Yerevan or its satellite clinic in Gavar, by Lake Sevan, the Wellness Center’s monthly Medical Outreach Missions travel to remote regions of the country and Artsakh to provide free-of-charge medical services. Since 1997, 80 remote villages and towns and close to 13,000 patients in Armenia and Artsakh have received medical assistance during such missions.

Dr. Ani Hakobyan, chief of the Radiology Department at the Wellness Center, updated the ambassador on the new collaboration with Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany, one of the foremost hospitals in Europe for cancer diagnosis, treatment and cure. The head of the Heidelberg University Hospital visited the

Wellness Center earlier this year and was impressed with the quality of the work and the accuracy of the center’s diagnosis.

The Wellness Center stays current with the latest medical technology. It is in the process of converting its analogue mammography equipment into digital 3D. Dr. Ann Archer, the chair of or the center’s 15 US Medical Advisory Board, is currently in Armenia training the center’s radiologists and staff in preparation for the conversion to Selenia Dimensions 3D Tomosynthesis program. This conversion will make the center one of the few health care facilities throughout the world to have such modern equipment.

The Wellness Center has also been a leader in introducing solar energy to Armenia. The reconstructed, seismically-reinforced, expanded and renovated building has a Solar Roof Integrated Photovoltaic (PV) System that generates renewable energy. Additional energy will be generated from the installation of a combined heat and power (CHP) system. This will use natural gas to provide power and also to heat or cool the building and provide its hot water.

“As an American citizen and as an Armenian woman, I am so proud that the Wellness Center is a model of all that is good about Armenia and America,” said Balian.

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