AECP Volunteer Physician Dr. John Hovanesian examines patient

Armenian EyeCare Project Marks 30th Anniversary with Mission Trip and Upcoming Gala


LOS ANGELES — The Armenian EyeCare Project (AECP) is commemorating its 30th anniversary by celebrating the milestone with a series of events, both in the U.S. and Armenia. The AECP’s 62nd Medical Mission to Armenia concluded in October, encompassing several momentous events that marked the organization’s 30-year-long dedication to advancing healthcare in Armenia.

This included the AECP’s 20th International Conference organized alongside Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and Armenia’s Ministry of Health; visits to AECP facilities like its Mobile Eye Hospital and Regional Eye Centers; a special High Order that was appointed to AECP Founder Dr. Roger Ohanesian by the President of Armenia and much more.

AECP-CHLA International Conference Group Shot

Continuing the tradition that began back in 1992, AECP volunteer physicians traveled again this year to Armenia to hold master classes and share experiences with their Armenian peers; provide hands-on training and perform simulation exercises as well as real surgeries together. Over the years this invaluable opportunity has built the capacity, knowledge and expertise of Armenian ophthalmologists and developed long-lasting partnerships with physicians from the U.S. and Europe.

During this year’s trip, one volunteer physician, Dr. Mitra Gonzales, performed over 20 surgeries together with Armenian doctors including an orbital decompression procedure that was done in Armenia for the first time! A cutting-edge technique of scleral fixation of an artificial lens called Yamane technique was introduced by another volunteer physician, Dr. Matthew Wade, who together with local doctors, successfully performed the operation at the Malayan Ophthalmological Center in Yerevan. Doctors Sarkis Soukiasian and John Hovanesian worked on complicated cases together with Chief of the Corneal-Uveitis Clinic at the Malayan Ophthalmologic Center Dr. Anna Hovakimyan and her staff.  This training of cutting-edge eye treatments ensures local doctors in Armenia are prepared to offer the best care possible to their country’s residents.

AECP Volunteer Physicians Dr. Sargis Sukiasyan, Dr. Matthew Wade and Dr. John Hovanesian
6 AECP Volunteer Physician Dr. John Hovanesian examines patient

Top physicians from the U.S. and Europe also visited the John Ohannes Khachigian AECP Regional Eye Center in Gyumri to screen patients and to discuss complicated cases together with their Armenian peers. The regional eye care facilities AECP has been establishing across the country provide access to life-changing quality eye care services and allow for a timely detection of eye diseases, which helps to prevent complications and prevent blindness in the future.

Earlier this year, in partnership with French NGO Lumière Française, the AECP established the first Armenian-French Ophthalmic School within its Regional Eye Center in Gyumri with the goal of improving the skills and knowledge of local physicians through a series of training courses and hands-on practice. The joint program kicked off in April in Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city, becoming another strategic location that serves a large population that would otherwise be unable to access high-quality eye care services.  Cooperation continued during the medical mission as well, as Dr. Marylin Nodarian visited Gyumri to see patients and train the staff, continuing to work in Gyumri for several days after the conference concluded.

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The AECP team also visited its Mobile Eye Hospital (MEH) during the trip, which was stationed in the town of Yeghvard at the time. Led by Ohanesian and AECP Country Director Nune Yeghiazaryan, the team of visiting physicians toured the mobile clinic, observed surgeries, met with patients and provided guidance to local physicians. More than 60,000 detailed eye examinations have been conducted on the MEH and over 25,000 surgeries have been performed since 2003 at no cost to residents of villages and towns across Armenia.

AECP Founder Dr. Ohanesian receives St. Mesrop Mashtots Order from President of Armenia

AECP-CHLA 20th International Conference

The AECP-CHLA 20th International Conference was held in Yerevan from September 23 through October 5, as part of the AECP’s 62nd Medical Mission. The packed program included lectures, professional discussions, master classes and workshops for health care providers (ophthalmologists, neonatologists, pediatricians and endocrinologists) as well as activities celebrating the AECP’s 30-year dedication to Armenia. The conference attracted over 400 in-person participants and more than 1,000 virtual participants, both from Armenia and other countries in the region.

The lineup of conference speakers included lecturers from Armenia as well as physicians from top universities and hospitals in the U.S., Europe and Russia. Organized in collaboration with Armenia’s Ministry of Health, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the World Diabetes Foundation and a number of medical associations in Armenia, the conference focused on various topics including glaucoma, refractive surgery, retinal disease, neuro-ophthalmology and oculoplastic, pediatric ophthalmology and corneal disorders. The second part of the Conference focused on general pediatrics, neonatology and pediatric endocrinology as well as new methods of pediatric disease diagnostics and treatment.

AECP Volunteer Physician Dr. Matthew Wade trains local physicians in Wet Lab

Mesrop Mashtots Order Given to Dr. Ohanesian

During the trip, Armenia President Vahagn Khachaturyan awarded the Order of Saint Mesrop Mashtots to Ohanesian for outstanding achievements. Ohanesian is only the 106th recipient of this prestigious award for his distinguished achievements in healthcare and many years of service to Armenia. His humanitarian work was also recognized earlier this year by the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS), which awarded Ohanesian with the foundation’s 2022 Chang-Crandall Humanitarian Award for his life-changing work in Armenia through AECP.

Despite the packed schedule, the AECP did carve out time to celebrate its 30th anniversary with its physicians and staff in Armenia. A tour of the Armenian Wine Museum was followed by a social gathering hosted by AECP Board Member Michael Sahakian. The extraordinary performance by “Geghard” vocal ensemble singing Armenian medieval melodies and folk songs by Armenian classical and contemporary composers was one of the highlights of the event. Certificates of Appreciation for 30 years of dedicated service were awarded to AECP physicians, volunteers, fellows, partners and staff with endless words of gratitude for their commitment and service.

As for upcoming events, the AECP is gearing up to celebrate its milestone 30th anniversary gala on Saturday, November 19, at the Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach. The evening will include a cocktail reception, dinner, live Armenian music by the Hosharian Brothers Band, auctions and more.

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