PASADENA, Calif. — Award-winning Armenian-American plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Andre Panossian of Los Angeles is volunteering his skills to travel to Armenia again this month (June 2019) to give dozens of children the ability to smile for the fourth consecutive year. In 2016, Dr. Panossian partnered with LA-based organization Mending Kids to launch a surgical mission to the region, a then first-time destination for the 15-year-old non-profit American organization. What started as a one-man effort has grown into a formidable team of volunteers and assistants who perform complex surgeries in Armenia annually.
The ongoing pilgrimage is unique and focuses on highly sub-specialized plastic surgery — facial paralysis/reanimation, neurofibromatosis, vascular and congenial hand anomalies and general pediatric plastic surgery. Facial reanimation surgery (for which Dr. Panossian has a rare technique — he’s the only plastic surgeon in the U.S. to use it) transplants a nerve from the side of the head into the appropriate muscle that enables a person to smile. “This is the hard, complicated stuff that isn’t always easy to do with teams of doctors overseas, without your usual staff or equipment,” Dr. Panossian points out. “I do love it.”
Although Armenia has made fast and significant progress in the area of public health, much of the local medical community still lacks techniques and equipment to resolve complex cases, the press release from Dr. Panossian’s office states. The Armenian-American surgeon offers Yerevan-based colleagues education and training in advanced techniques — each mission hosts over 20 physicians from the region to attend pre-op clinics, lectures and participate in bedside teaching. Mending Kids additionally provides equipment for local teams to utilize independently after the mission is complete — equipment donations have included everything from surgical power equipment (drills and saws) to magnification loupes.
“This year, my wife and daughters are traveling with me and I’m excited for them to experience how meaningful this mission is. I’m thrilled that a non-Armenian organization like Mending Kids has taken such a deep and sincere interest for helping Yerevan’s children and the medical community grow,” Dr. Panossian says. “If we can’t contribute to our home country with what we do, then what’s it all for?”
Clinics and surgeries will take place at the Arabkir Medical Center in Yerevan, Armenia during the last week of June.
Andre Panossian’s wife is the prominent Armenian-American journalist and TV host Jill Simonian, who will also visit her motherland.