Armenian Heritage Highlight Month 

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  • April 25, 2021

Armenian Heritage Highlight Month

By: AMWA Premedical Division

 

Brief Honoring of the Armenian Genocide: 

April is an important month for Armenians all around the world, as April 24th is the day of rememberence when countless of Armenians and non-Armenians alike remember the atrocities of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, the first genocide of the 20th century. The American Medical Women’s Association would like to take this opportunity to remember and honor the 1.5 million Armenian lives lost at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915. 

During that time, women physicians of the American Women’s Hospital Service (a program of AMWA), including Dr. Mabel Elliott, provided humanitarian relief and medical care to displaced and  orphaned Armenians. Today, on behalf of the premedical division, AMWA is remembering and honoring those who lost their lives and standing in support with our Armenian members and Armenians all around the world. We would like to take this time to amplify the voices of Armenians from our community and highlight the incredible work of some Armenian female physicians. 

“Armenia will live; a root deep-buried in the ground, refusing to die” 

Dr. Mabel Elliot, American Women’s Hospital Service – Beginning Again at Ararat (1923) 

 


Arpi Galstyan, MD

Brief Biography: 

I grew up in Glendale, CA. I went to UCLA for college (Class of 2016) and UCSF for medical school (Class of 2021). I will be starting anesthesia residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital in June 2021. I’m interested in medical education and academic medicine. 

What is like being an Armenian woman in medicine?

When I was an undergraduate student, there were many people who strongly discouraged me from becoming a physician, not only because of the rigor, intensity, and length of training, but also because of the concern that it would limit my ability to have a family of my own. As an Armenian-American who had been raised with very strong family values, it was even more challenging to move past these comments while remaining optimistic. I tried to find other Armenian women in medicine, but I struggled to find someone who I could turn to for advice and guidance. Now, as an Armenian woman in medicine who has “made it”, I strive to give back to my community in every and any way that I can. I want to serve as a resource to others so that no-one ever has to question whether or not they belong in medicine.

What does giving back to your community look like for you?

There is no right way of giving back to your community. Even the simplest act can have a lasting impact, and no matter what you do, all that matters is that you’re doing something. Throughout my academic career, I’ve always worked to give back to my immediate community through mentorship. If I help at least one student succeed, then I’ve fulfilled my purpose. If that student then goes on to help another student succeed, then the effects can soon become exponential. In time, I hope to expand these efforts so that I am no longer simply providing mentorship, but I am also offering networking and sponsorship opportunities as well. 

What advice do you have for young women who may be on the path to medicine?

My advice is to do whatever makes you happy, and don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do. 

 

Dr. Evelyn Baghdasraian, MD

Chief of Service, Department of Pediatrics, Co-Lead for Physician Wellness, Women in Medicine Physician Champion, WH/WV Service Area, National Co-Lead, Kaiser Permanente Armenian Connection (KPAC)

Brief Biography: 

Dr. Evelyn Baghdasraian is currently the Chief of Service for the Woodland Hills Western Ventura Service Area of Kaiser Permanente, Southern California Permanente Medical Group. She is also a Physician Wellness Champion for the WH/WV service area, and serves as the Regional Lead for Pediatric Physician Education for Southern California. Dr. Baghdasraian is the lead for Women in Medicine serving the WH/WV area. She is also the co-founder and National President of KPAC, The Kaiser Permanente Armenian Connection. Born and raised in Southern California, Evelyn Baghdasraian-Barkhoudarian received her education at both local Armenian schools and the Glendale Unified School District. She received a Bachelor of Sciences in Biology along with a degree in Health Policy and Management, emphasis multi-cultural health, at the University of Southern California in 2001. She received her Medical Degree in 2005 at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine, where she had many opportunities to practice medicine overseas, from Honduras to Armenia. A desire to be close to family, friends, and community brought her back to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles for a pediatric residency, which she completed in 2008. She practiced at Kaiser Permanente upon graduation through 2011, and had the opportunity to work as a pediatrician in the Emergency Department of Boston Childrens Hospital (formerly Childrens Hospital Boston) the subsequent year. She resumed practice in Pediatrics with the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in 2012 , where she currently practices. 

What does giving back to your community look like for you?

Dr. Baghdasraian prides herself in giving back to the community at large. While strongly believing in the importance of acknowledging diversity, she seeks to preserve her own heritage, being the great granddaughter of an Armenian Genocide survivor. She provides culturally competent care to every patient, a value she has stuck strongly to throughout her career, all while being a wife, mother, and serving the community. She hopes that KPAC will help provide Armenian patients access to health care targeting their needs, provide mentorship for physicians and staff to inspire future leaders, and help develop connections to local Armenian organizations that further Armenian causes. In particular she feels strongly in advocating on behalf of Armenians around the world with respect to the health care needs of Armenia as well as the recognition of hate crimes against Armenians in the current times. Like many Armenians she hopes to educate others of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 as well as the recent Artsakh wars. 

What advice do you have for young women who may be on the path to medicine?

Every woman who chooses to pursue a career in medicine knows that it involves sacrifice and perseverance. In accepting a medical career we give ourselves to the service of others, knowing that it will require a commitment and a constant struggle to maintain work life balance. Know what you need in life to make you happy. Make sure you prioritize those values as you move along your career path in medicine. Think clearly and have no regrets. There is no calling more noble, more giving, more humbling, and more rewarding than being a woman in medicine. 

 

Dr. Elena Sagayan, MD, MPH

Department of Women’s Health, Kaiser Permanente

Brief Biography: 

I was born in Krasnodar, a vibrant multicultural city in the South of Russia that is often referred to as little Paris for its architectural heritage and lush greenery. My natural curiosity and love for science, coupled with the

abundance of natural beauty in my surroundings, sparked my interest in natural science and biology that later led me to pursue a career in medicine. Graduating at the top of my class from Kubanskaya Medicinskaysa Academia in 1994, I was drawn to the field of women’s health as I engaged myself in advocacy work for women’s reproductive rights and learned about the poor state of family planning services in Russia. Upon graduation from an OB/GYN residency program in 1997, I joined the medical school faculty at the department of OB/GYN at my Alma Mater. 

I further pursued my education at School of Public Health at UC Berkeley. I settled in California and completed an OB/GYN residency at USC in 2006. I chose Kaiser as my top career choice since I believe it has one of the best examples of integrated care delivery. I joined the group in 2006 and feel proud to be part of this exceptional organization since. I enjoy all aspects of the OB/GYN profession, especially the fact that we provide care for women through all the stages of life. Often, I see three generations of women in the same family and feel intimately

connected and rewarded by being able to bring the joy of motherhood and health to my patients.

In 2016, after ten years of practicing as a generalist, I was nominated to pursue the operative gynecology track in Kaiser and, although I greatly enjoyed the work on Labor and Delivery, I decided to go through

the selection process and, if chosen, focus my practice on minimally invasive surgical gynecology.

Since then, I have been a part of the operative gynecology team at Kaiser Permanente Diablo Service. I also serve on the Peer Review Committee and Wellness Committee at Kaiser Permanente Diablo Service Area. 

Recently, I have taken additional training in Lifestyle Medicine( LSM) and became board certified in LSM. This new subspecialty offers exciting opportunities to incorporate new knowledge and understanding how environment and lifestyle affect health.

What does giving back to your community look like for you?

I have served as president of Armenian Healthcare Association of the Bay Area (AHABA) since 2014. AHABA is a non-profit organization with a mission to improve healthcare delivery both in Armenia and in the local American-Armenian community. Through my involvement I was involved in medical missions, surgical workshops and conferences in Armenia as well as local health fairs and virtual educational events. 

During the recent war in Artsakh our organization was involved in procuring and shipping large quantities of emergency medical supplies, organizing surgical workshops and mental health hotlines serving war veterans and their families. Our goal was to unite our Bay Area Armenian community to deliver much needed medical help during the war and COVID-19 pandemic.

I believe women have a unique role in medicine as they apply their natural nurturing qualities and empathy to create healing relationships with the patients. Women also play an important role in science and I strive to encourage girls and young women to use their natural curiosity and creativity and to pursue their dreams and passions.

What advice do you have for young women who may be on the path to medicine?

I have two pieces of advice for young women interested in medicine.

First, is to listen to your heart and understand the “why” behind your desire to pursue that field.  Once you understand your true motivations, you will be able to overcome any difficulties along the way and you will become unstoppable! The second piece of advice is to not be afraid–not be afraid of making mistakes, of being not good enough, of not meeting the expectations of others. Just remember that your life’s a journey and it is always a “work in progress.”

 

Dr. Tsoline Kojaoghlanian, MD

Attending Physician, Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Maimonides Medical Center

Brief Biography: 

I was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon to Armenian parents. Most of my grandparents had arrived in Lebanon as orphans during the Genocide. A large part of my childhood was spent sheltering in basements from bombs during the 20-year devastating Lebanese civil wars. That did not deter my thirst for knowledge, and my parents’ drive in making sure we continue our education at all cost as they regarded it as a major key to success in life, especially an Armenian life. I excelled at school- I was the youngest student in my class and yet ranked first in my class. I fell in love with the sciences early on and had one focus in high school: to attend the prestigious American University of Beirut (AUB) that my father had also attended. I applied there with one goal in mind- to become a physician- and I got the highest grade in the university entrance exam among all the applicants in the whole country that year.  You can imagine the thrill when I received that call. Another major thrill in my life was when I was accepted into medical school 3 years after graduating with a Bachelor of Sciences with honors – I still remember that day vividly. As someone who wanted the best possible medical education available, I embarked to come to the US for residency and fellowship training as I regarded American Board certification as the pinnacle of my medical training. I have since remained in the US in major Children’s Hospitals in New York as an infectious diseases physician taking care of children ages 0-18 years old whose most common and most serious illnesses are of the infectious type.

What is like being an Armenian woman in medicine?

As Armenians, we always carry the anguish of lost Armenian lives with us, and we strive to protect our very existence. Thus, wanting to save every single Armenian life possible from this devastating disease became my mission, made even more urgent during the Artsakh atrocities.

What does giving back to your community look like for you?

Early on in New York, I sought and joined fellow Armenian health care professionals’ groups as one conduit to help inform the Armenian community the best I can. It goes without saying that my unique infectious diseases skills have been put in high gear during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Armenians, we always carry the anguish of lost Armenian lives with us, and we strive to protect our very existence. Thus, wanting to save every single Armenian life possible from this devastating disease became my mission, made even more urgent during the Artsakh atrocities. To that end, I have participated in regional, national and international webinars, forums, lectures, both public and among health care professionals, organized by and for Armenians. I have answered countless texts, calls, messages from Armenians who I know and many who I don’t know. I believe knowledge is power and empowering fellow Armenians with the most evidence-based scientific knowledge about the virus has been my humble contribution in these uniquely difficult times for Armenians.

Much of this work has required sacrifice- leaving friends to study, leaving family to learn, leaving home to improve. 

What advice do you have for young women who may be on the path to medicine?

My advice to young women considering medicine is to assess the sacrifice early on and choose it only if you are ready to embrace it. People’s lives are in your hands, go into medicine with that realization and with empathy, otherwise don’t. Be a giver, as it is only by giving that you shall receive. Finally, set the standard, make your work count, show the world that Armenians’ intellectual prowess has no limit and is here to stay.

 

 

 

Anna Vardapetyan

AMWA LEADS 2021 Virtual Meeting — March 25 – 28, 2021 Save the Date!