LEUTENBERG, Germany — Five years ago, the German-Armenian Forum came into being upon the initiative of Albert Weiler, a member of the Bundestag (Parliament) from the Christian Democratic Party (CDU). The aim of the new association was to intensify relations and promote mutual understanding between Armenia and Germany at all levels, from government to parliament, among professionals, students and youth. And it has been a success story.
Ani Avagyan is a good example. After having completed her medical studies with excellent grades in Yerevan, she wanted to further her education in Germany, and applied for a position at the Specialized Hospital of Dermatology at Castel Friedensburg, Leutenberg, in Thuringia. “I simply wanted to develop knowledge in my special field further and gain some international experience. In the field of medicine that is nothing unusual,” she said. Language was no barrier, since she had studied German at the university and mastered it rapidly.
Bureaucracy, however, did present a problem. To qualify for a permit to stay in Germany, she had to go through lengthy procedures, which were complicated and thorough. Weiler stepped in to provide help. “After discussions with the ambassadors of both countries and filling out a lot of forms, we were finally able to make it possible for Ms. Avagyan to come to Leutenberg,” he said. “One advantage was that the hospital was also a member of our Forum,” he added.
With her temporary sojourn permit, Avagyan reached her aim and started activities at the hospital, which is housed in a magnificent 16th-century castle. Within a short time, she was fluent in German; to continue her career, she also had to master the use of specialized medical terminology, and passed the exams with honors. The Specialized Hospital of Dermatology is the right place for her to be; since its opening in 1993 it has become the center for treatment of skin and chronic degenerative diseases, not only for patients in Germany but internationally.
In early June, Weiler went to visit Avagyan, who has just completed her first year at the hospital and received her work permit. The young Armenian doctor raved about the hospital and its surroundings. “When I send photos to friends and family members,” she told the parliamentarian, “they are envious, because it is so beautiful here. The natural setting and the historic castle are simply fantastic.” The manager and head doctor of the hospital, Silke Herold, had nothing but praise for Avagyan. In the course of the past year, she said, “we were able to get a sense of her personality and achievements. And I am not exaggerating,” she went on, “when I say that Ms. Avagyan has enriched our hospital, with her pleasant and friendly manner, as well as her diligence and specialized knowledge.”
The project has clearly been a success for all involved. The combination of natural beauty and historical significance of the site have enhanced the clinic and helped attract young medical associates to join the staff. The German-Armenian Forum has played a crucial role as mediator. Plans are already afoot for expanding this cooperation, also in other fields of medicine, like care of the elderly.