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Winter 2017 Newsletter

Members in the News
Mark B. Constantian, MD, FACS

Summary of Dr. Constantian's Trip to Yerevan, 2016

At the 2015 Association meeting, Steve Ariyan's Presidential Address recounted the story of how he had reacted to the 1988 earthquake in Spitak, Armenia by training Armenian surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses at Yale so that they could return to Armenia and perform the reconstructive surgery that was needed. One of those surgeons, Gagik Stamboltsyan, had come to the Association meeting with his son to honor Steve's presidential year.

After the opening ceremonies, Dr. Stamboltsyan approached me and asked if I would come to Yerevan to teach and operate. My wife Charlotte, my surgical nurse Donna Morton, and I made that trip in September of this year and stayed for nine days. The first day I lectured for 4 hours to the plastic and ENT surgeons from Yerevan and some from Moscow who attended. That afternoon we screened patients and then operated for five days. I had to laugh at the discovery that some of the long line of patients had come only to meet “the famous American surgeon”, which is the way Dr. Stamboltsyan had billed me. The next weekend Dr. Stamboltsyan, his wife, and our Yale-trained anesthesiologist Armine Kharatyan joined Charlotte, Donna, and me to travel the country for a day and a half, visiting multiple churches, the Genocide Museum, and gazing at Mount Ararat, by legend the landing place of Noah’s Ark, located in present-day Turkey. Dr. Stamboltsyan was an extremely generous and cordial host.

Except for one, all the cases we did were secondary rhinoplasties, which are not being performed in Yerevan, despite a very large volume of primary rhinoplasties. Some of the deformities were uncorrectable on that visit because they would have required cantilevered rib grafts, but in other cases we were able to use ear cartilage frugally to accomplish the reconstructions. In most patients, septal cartilage had been completely harvested.

Armenia is an interesting country. Its government is composed largely of former KGB officers, and so the population fears and senses corruption. Nevertheless, the city is clean and very safe and the people are hard-working and seem surprisingly content with modest incomes and lifestyles. Armenia has suffered economically following the breakup of the Soviet Union because much of its commerce and export ability has disappeared. Young people work in the hotels and restaurants; older citizens travel to Russia or Europe for business opportunities, some commuting.

At a next visit I would make some equipment changes and pre-screen patients differently, but the experience was priceless and one more good thing in my life that happened because of Steve Ariyan.

Photo Legend: Left to right: Mrs. Stamboltsyan, anesthesiologist Armine Kharatyan, Donna Morton, Charlotte, me, our host Gagik Stamboltsyan.

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