“Endocrinologists, pack your things and go to Artsakh. The need is there and we must work to support people at risk.” This is Dr. Sofia Hovhannisyan’s message—a call to action for all doctors in Armenia to help people in need in Artsakh.
After 15 days working in the territory’s Martuni District in April, Dr. Hovhannisyan is back in Yerevan and more resolute than ever. With the gap in medical personnel from the war still very much in existence, “we must call for doctors for Artsakh,” she said.
Dr. Hovhannisyan, a diabetes specialist with more than 20 years of experience, moved to Yerevan from Moscow in 2016 to work at the Hematology Center After Professor R. Yeolyan. When she heard about the FAR and AAHPO-supported Doctors for Artsakh project she immediately headed to Artsakh to treat patients with diabetes.
During and after the 2020 Artsakh War, everything was upended, including the healthcare system, which turned out to be very fragile; hospitals were damaged due to shelling, some doctors had left or been injured, and patients had to find a means of transport to get to the Stepanakert hospital for acute cases. Doctors for Artsakh aims to fill the gap of medical personnel in Artsakh.
During her mission, Dr. Hovhannisyan arrived in Martuni with a clear objective. “Apart from my primary responsibilities, I also volunteered to open a training center about diabetes; 17 locals attended my trainings. The goal of the center was to educate patients about their disease. When a person knows fully about his/her disease and all its complications and risks, they are more likely to avoid causing harm to themselves.”
Following the first training, Dr. Hovhannisyan saw results when some participants had decreased blood sugar levels. There are about 610 people in Artsakh registered as having diabetes.
“War-related, posttraumatic stress can cause diabetes; it’s been hard for the people of Artsakh, and it still is. Nearly everyone I talked to would strike up a conversation and start talking about war and the people they’d lost. Almost everyone wore black, and had tears in their eyes. Many of them didn’t even take medication during the war, meaning that it has exacerbated the situation. That’s why I would like to ask everyone to come and take care of these people because, believe me, they need you. I’m back now to Yerevan now, but all my thoughts are with them, and if needed I’ll go back there again,” she said, noting that there is also a huge demand foranesthesiologists, reanimatologists, and cardiologists in Artsakh.