In September my scrub nurse, Charlotte, and I went to Armenia to operate. Gagik Stamboltsyan, one of the surgeons that Yale plastic surgeon Dr. Stephen Ariyan had trained after the 1998 Spitak, Armenia earthquake had come with his son to the American Association of Plastic Surgeons meeting in 2015 to honor Dr. Ariyan in his presidential year. At that time, he invited me to come to operate and lecture in Armenia. Dr. Stamboltsyan was our host. It turned out that the anesthesiologist who assisted us in surgery, Armenuhi Kharatian, was also one of Dr. Ariyan’s trainees.
We were there a total of 9 days. On the first day I lectured for 4 hours to surgeons from Armenia, Georgia, and one who came from Moscow. I then saw patients till 7 o’clock that night. Unfortunately, some of them were not easily treatable and would have required rib grafts, too much of an undertaking for this trip. We operated for 5 days, almost all secondary and tertiary rhinoplasties, and saw a few additional patients each day. The last day and a half we spent sightseeing with our host and his wife. We saw many of the old churches and got almost as far as the Turkish border to see Mount Ararat, though at more than 16,000 feet it is higher than any of the rocky mountain peaks and easily visible from Yerevan. The food was spectacular, as you can imagine, and our hosts were very generous.
Dr. Jack Sheen’s father had founded a children’s camp for the poor in Hankavan, about an hour north of Yerevan, and we drove there in the course of sightseeing and photographed it. It is quite a lovely place and still functional and growing.
I admire very much what Gagik and Armeni are doing. He has his own clinic, he and his son operate 6 days a week, and he is still a regular advisor to the government, where he was for a while Minister of Health and a member of Parliament. Dr. Ariyan’s legacy for plastic surgery makes it uniquely outstanding in the country for the quality of its training and education.