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Honoring Dr. Raffy Hovanessian: A Legacy of Hope

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

Honoring the enduring legacy of Dr. Raffy Hovanessian

Three years have passed since the untimely departure of our beloved Dr. Raffy Hovanessian. Though his absence has left an irreplaceable void in our hearts, we take solace in honoring the remarkable legacy he left behind; one that will endure for generations to come.

As both a visionary and luminary, Dr. Raffy Hovanessian embarked on a mission that left an indelible mark on the Armenian society. With a profound understanding that a nation's survival and success are intimately linked to the well-being of its people, he passionately supported crucial healthcare improvements.

Through his unwavering endeavors, a series of positive changes were set into motion, empowering the doctors and nurses of Armenia and Artsakh through the groundbreaking Continuing Medical Education (CME) program launched in 2005 in Armenia and in 2011 in Artsakh.

Empowering medical professionals in Armenia and Artsakh

Dr. Raffy Hovanessian stood as a staunch advocate for Continuing Medical Education in Armenia through the Fund for Armenian Relief. In 2005, alongside Dr. Edgar Housepian, he spearheaded the creation of a robust network of promoters and supporters of CME worldwide. Their visionary care paved the way for improved healthcare resources for vulnerable populations in Armenia, including children and their families, teachers, and military servicemen.

Driven by his firsthand experience, Dr. Raffy Hovanessian expanded the CME initiative to Artsakh under the banner of the AAHPO. Recognizing the indispensable role of trained nurses--especially in frontline regions where doctors were scarce--he made it his mission to empower healthcare professionals in those areas. These projects not only strive for equal access to quality healthcare, but also serve as lifesaving endeavors, evident during the harrowing 44-day war in Artsakh.

“I have had the privilege of knowing Raffy for many years, during which time he has consistently exemplified his unwavering patriotism as an Armenian. He would seize every opportunity to contribute to the Motherland, with a particular focus on enhancing the healthcare system. Notably, Raffy has undertaken a special and sacred mission dedicated to Artsakh and the advancement of its healthcare system. His efforts in this regard have been both discreet and impactful, as he steadfastly works behind the scenes, leaving a lasting positive influence,” said Dr. Ara Babloyan, proudly.

Through the CME program, 1,300 doctors and nurses from remote regions of Armenia and Artsakh have been provided with an opportunity to enhance their skills and knowledge with evidence-based practices, enabling them to provide enhanced medical services to their communities.

Furthermore, in honor of the late Dr. Raffy Hovanessian, FAR has proudly sponsored the pioneering virtual International Digestive Disease Conference. Orchestrated by the International Center for Professional Development (ICPD), this groundbreaking event united over 1,000 participants spanning more than 30 countries worldwide. The symposium bridged nations from Armenia and Artsakh to the United States and Venezuela, exemplifying a global commitment to medical excellence. The conferences organized by ICPD have truly become extremely popular with not only doctors from Armenia and Artsakh, but from hundreds of doctors all around the World. FAR has since been sponsoring them through the Dr. Raffy Hovanessian Education Fund.

Borderline doctor empowered by Dr. Hovanessian to serve six communities simultaneously

In Armenia, access to professional continuing medical education has often been expensive, especially after the collapse of the USSR. This posed a significant barrier for rural doctors who wanted to receive further training.

Dr. Raffy Hovanessian recognized the potential of CME to create a positive impact on Armenia's healthcare system while empowering physicians to provide "health for all."

Dr. Anush Nersisyan, 60, graduated from Yerevan State Medical University in 1990 and made a life-changing decision to leave her hometown of Yerevan to serve the communities of Syunik Province. Her husband, freshly graduated from the YSU IT department, also decided to join her in the endeavor, becoming the sole math teacher in the southern province of Armenia and ensuring that local children had access to quality mathematics education.

Dr. Anush Nersisyan has been actively engaged in FAR's CME a few times and more recently, the non-communicable diseases (NCD) training program. These initiatives have equipped her with updated knowledge and emerging treatment methods in general therapy.

“When I reflect on Dr. Raffy Hovanessian, the esteemed philanthropist and founder of the CME program, I feel deeply connected to my compatriots in Darbas village; my community; and my beloved Hayrenik. To truly belong to a larger community means giving back and actively making a positive difference in the lives of those around you, whether familiar faces or strangers. Dr. Hovanessian's legacy lies in creating an empowering environment that enables me to serve my compatriots and contribute to the betterment of my country," Dr. Nersisyan shared.

Going where the need is greatest

After the second war in Artsakh, FAR, with support from the Armenian American Health Professionals Organization (AAHPO) and the Dr. Raffy Hovanessian Education Fund, launched the "Doctors for Artsakh" program. The initiative aimed to fill the gaps in the fragile post-war healthcare system by deploying leading doctors from Armenia's medical centers on a rotating basis. The program also provided training for healthcare workers based in Artsakh through a combination of offline and virtual communication tools, along with occasional in-person sessions. Furthermore, critical medical equipment and supplies were supplied to support the project.

Dr. Biayna Sukhudyan was among the first doctors to travel to Artsakh, along with her peers, to help. "My intention was to assist children with neurological issues since there were no pediatricians available in the area and these children were left abandoned and in need of professional care. Subsequently, my colleagues decided to join me, and together, we made trips to the region every two months, accompanied by a group of doctors," explained Dr. Sukhudyan. In addition, the program not only facilitated on-site and online consultations, but also involved training a local individual to become a future pediatric neurologist, thus creating a sustainable impact in the community.

"The doctors who have participated in this program in Artsakh have not only delivered professional care to the local people but also instilled a sense of hope for positive change. This, to me, is the most significant and heartfelt outcome a physician can carry with them," stated Dr. Sukhudyan.

Continuing Dr. Raffy Hovanessian's legacy

The visionary and luminary, Dr. Raffy Hovanessian, set in motion a mission of tremendous impact within the Armenian society. His resolute belief that a nation's survival, success, and self-sustainability hinges on the health of its people drove his unwavering support for healthcare improvement, bolstering the strength of the entire nation.

Today, Dr. Raffy's legacy lives on through these ongoing projects; saving lives and leaving an indelible mark. The Dr. Raffy Hovanessian Education Fund, established at the Fund for Armenian Relief by his family, along with the support from friends and colleagues, continues to fuel these transformative endeavors.

As each life touched by his vision testifies, Dr. Raffy Hovanessian's legacy is a beacon of hope, ensuring a brighter and healthier future for generations to come.

“Raffy believed in continuing medical education as the foundation for state-of-the-art care in Armenia. To this end, this great man set an example for us all, by leading initiatives to foster learning at all levels. We admire Raffy for this mission as well as for everything else he did, and recognize him as one of our greatest humanitarians,” said John P. Bilezikian, Professor of Medicine, Columbia University.

At FAR, we hold immense pride and privilege in being Dr. Hovanessian's chosen partner to turn his aspirations into a tangible reality in Armenia and Artsakh. His visionary spirit lives on through the vital work we continue to carry out, fueling our determination to make a lasting difference in the lives of those we serve.

If you want to support the legacy of Dr. Raffy Hovanessian, please make your donation here: Dr. Raffy Hovanessian Education Fund.


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