I cannot believe it is almost the end of August. It has been one week since I returned from my 10 week internship in Armenia. It was a huge kind of a shock for me to step into America again and immediately feel the differences from the place that I had left behind. But nevertheless, I am thrilled to be back with so many great memories and stories to share with my family and friends… minus the jet lag!
My final two weeks in Armenia were very bittersweet for me, since I had to wrap up my work at the eye clinic in Gyumri. It was hard for me to say goodbye to the doctors, nurses, and the patients who I had deeply connected with during my work there. In the clinic, I was able to observe patients’ eyes through the slit lamp and ophthalmoscope, as well as giving away the donated eye drops to them. In addition, I took the time to make an educational poster for the patients waiting in the hallway. The poster contained descriptions of various common eye conditions in Armenian including diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, age related macular degeneration, and glaucoma. There is also an anatomy of the eye diagram in the center of the poster.
Once I left Gyumri, I spent my last five days in the capital, Yerevan, where I was able to visit the S. Malayan Ophthalmological Center. Currently, the center has over 200 specialists and 7 different vision departments including trauma, pediatric, and glaucoma. While I was there, I was able to observe the contact lens specialists and see how they performed contact lens fittings. The fittings are very similar to the contact lens fittings optometrists do in the US. I was also able to observe how they make RGP hard contact lenses with an optical technician. It was an interesting experience for me because he was using old Soviet style devices to make the lenses. Each pair of hard lenses costs about 25,000 dram, which is about $60. The doctors prescribe hard lenses to those patients with severe astigmatism and keratoconus. Most of the patients end up ordering soft lenses since it is cheaper and more comfortable.
After observing at the Malayan Center, I visited a non-profit organization called the Armenian Eye Care Project (AECP). AECP was founded in 1992 by an Armenian American ophthalmologist, Dr. Roger Ohanesian, whose mission it was to eliminate avoidable blindness and to provide eye care for all Armenians in need. Throughout the year, a group of doctors volunteer and travel in a mobile eye truck and perform eye surgeries on people in different regions of the country. I have been invited to work with them in the near future. I look forward to applying what I learn at NECO to help them out during my next trip to Armenia.
Overall, my 10 week experience in Armenia was very fulfilling. Not only was I able to work somewhere related to my field, but also I was able to do other projects and make friends with other volunteers from around the world. I am privileged to have been given this amazing opportunity and I am looking forward to going back to do more great things!
I also have to thank NECO, especially Dr. Jamara, for all the help and donations that they provided for me on this journey. I am so grateful to be studying at a wonderful institution that gives back to various communities in need, whether in America or abroad. And that’s a wrap! Hope you enjoyed my series of blogs this summer. I wish all of you a great start to the new school year! Best of luck… Cheers!