By Peggy McInerny, Director of Communications
WESTWOOD, Calif. (The Promise Armenian Institute) — Funded by the Promise Armenian Institute (PAI) at UCLA, two University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) faculty are working tirelessly to provide real-time Covid-19 assistance to medical and public health professionals in the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Caucusus.
Associate Dean Alina Dorian of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and Dr. Shant Shekherdimian of the Geffen School of Medicine and UCLA Health have long histories of working with medical and public health experts in both places. The “day” jobs of these two Bruin faculty are extraordinarily demanding, spanning teaching, administrative, research and clinical work (and in Dorian’s case, a second job as a Los Angeles Public Health Commissioner). Factor in the first global pandemic in a century, and their workloads are staggering.
Yet Shekherdimian and Dorian are also devoting precious free time (and countless hours of lost sleep) to coordinate with experts worldwide to identify and deliver medical equipment to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as share the latest Covid-19 knowledge and practices with health professionals.
In so doing, they draw on a long history of collaboration in medical research between UCLA faculty and health and university professionals in Armenia, their own professional and personal networks and the global Armenian diaspora. (The Fielding School even has an Armenian-language fact page on Covid-19; see https://ucla.in/3cwtrnn .)
An undergraduate alumna of UCLA, Dorian is an expert in public health disaster planning and response, with experience working in Armenia, Georgia, Eritrea, the Dominican Republic, Macedonia, Kosovo, Haiti and Peru. She joined the faculty of the Fielding School in 2004, where she is currently associate dean for public health practice and for diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as adjunct assistant professor in the department of community health sciences. Previously, she served as associate director of the school’s Master of Public Health for Health Professionals Program and its Center for Public Health and Disasters, as well as field studies director of the community health sciences department.
Shekherdimian is assistant professor at the Geffen School of Medicine and a pediatric surgeon at UCLA Health specializing in neonatal and minimally invasive surgery and surgical management of inflammatory bowel disease. Also an undergraduate Bruin alumnus, Shekherdimian completed his surgical residency and an executive M.P.H. at UCLA before joining the faculty in 2014. He has longstanding research interests in global health and is currently conducting a study of cancer screening in Armenia, with support from a Fulbright Scholarship and the assistance of UCLA medical students and residents.