YEREVAN (AUA) — Dr. Sharon Anoush Chekijian is an esteemed medical doctor, Director, and Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Medicine who recently joined the exclusive group of ChangeMakers of the American University of Armenia (AUA). With a strong belief in the power of education to take Armenia in the direction that would ensure a brighter future for the country, she is committed to extending her personal and professional expertise to the next generation of forward-thinkers and leaders.
Dr. Chekijian has partnered with AUA in the past, contributing to the growth of the University and student success in different ways. No doubt, her philanthropic comportment was imparted to her by her family — her father, Yervant Chekijian, and late uncle, Samuel Chekijian, are both AUA Pillars. She comments how fortunate they have felt to be able to support AUA’s mission and vision, which they also shared, adding, “Our family has always believed in the power of education to change lives, countries, and destinies. I believe that is because we have experienced the power of education firsthand.”
Born to an Armenian family from Jerusalem with ancestral roots in Zeytoun and Marash, Dr. Chekijian was raised in the Boston area of Massachusetts and currently resides in Connecticut. The granddaughter of genocide survivors Mary (née Zümrüt Norashkharian) and Youhanna Chekijian, she reflects on how this heritage has colored her worldview, strengthening her desire to work hard and aspire to success in honor of the invincible will and strength of her grandparents. “As children and grandchildren of genocide survivors, we know everything can be taken away from you, but not your education. We also know that the future of a brilliant and prosperous Armenia lies in the education of those who will continue to grow and transform the country.”
Dr. Chekijian remembers her first trip to Armenia during the first Artsakh War. She visited for the summer with a special educational exemption through the AGBU/University of Michigan summer language program — a trip that preceded a critical time for the nation and served as a catalyst for her dedication to the Armenian cause. “On our return flight on Aeroflot via Paris, we learned that the Soviet Union had collapsed while we were in the air. This heralded a lifelong fascination with the birth and subsequent shaping of the newly independent Republic of Armenia,” she says.
Though AUA was founded soon after her return home, she was first introduced to the University while in medical school. Upon applying for funding to work on a project titled, “Legal, Professional, Public and Policy Barriers to the Development of Organ Donation and Transplantation Programs in the Republic of Armenia” — which later served as the basis of her thesis — she met Dr. Varduhi Petrosyan, current dean of the AUA Turpanjian College of Health Sciences (CHS).
“Dr. Petrosyan was one of the researchers in this project at the start of my career. The work I did that summer introduced me to people who have become lifelong collaborators. Since then, AUA has been a home away from home for all of my work and projects in Armenia that focus on emergency medical systems, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, traffic safety, and stroke care,” she explains, adding that she is currently working on a grant that combines many of these areas of interest.