By Alin K. Gregorian
BOSTON — The life and career of Dr. Ernest Barsamian was celebrated in grand fashion in September, first with a gala reception at Boston University on September 21, organized by the New England chapter of the Worldwide Alumni of the American University of Beirut (AUB), and then, with a special private medaling ceremony on Wednesday, September 25, with Armenia’s Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian and Ambassador to the US Tatul Markarian, at Harvard University.
During a private reception at the Harvard Office of the University Marshal Jackie O’Neill, in Harvard Square, Nalbandian awarded Barsamian the Mkhitar Heratsi medal — the Armenian government’s highest medal in medicine — on behalf of President Serge Sargisian, and spent some time with Barsamian and O’Neill. As consecutive speakers pointed out at the Saturday gala, Barsamian’s achievements would have been impressive for anyone. However, for Barsamian, 87, growing up poor in Aleppo, Syria, the beautiful campus of AUB in Beirut was a dream, as were the hallowed halls of Harvard Medical School.
Barsamian’s accomplishments are numerous. He was professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he invented one of the early heart-lung machines. He was faculty dean at Harvard Medical School, chair of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery, chair of Surgical Services and chief of staff at the Boston Veterans Administration Medical Center. He was the senior consultant to the New England VA regional director and consultant in cardiac surgery to the Department of Veterans Affairs. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Surgery, among others.
He was the first Armenian foreign graduate to get accepted to the Harvard Surgical Residency Program at Boston City Hospital in 1956. He retired in 2000.