Akgulian Trains Doctors in Armenia
by John Mielke
Dr. Nick Akgulian (’82) wanted to do more with his medical training than just build a successful practice at St. Catherine’s Hospital in Kenosha, Wis. So, in September 2001, he went to Armenia – a small country in the southwest corner of the former Soviet Union and part of his ancestors’ homeland. His mission: help doctors there learn more about modern western medicine.
A man is treated at a medical
clinic in Armenia
Akgulian graduated from UW-Parkside with a bachelor of science degree in 1982. He attended medical school at UW-Madison and did his residency at St. Catherine’s before starting his own practice.
When he arrived in Armenia, he found many of the primary care doctors had far less classical training than he expected and far fewer resources with which to work.
"Armenia is a struggling country,” Akgulian said. “Being there for 15 months broadened my perspective on what medicine is like outside the urban United States. I was used to having everything available. In the entire country (Armenia) there are just a few CAT scan machines. On highway 50 in Kenosha there are several in the space of a couple of blocks."
Medical supplies are hard to come by and Armenian doctors are forced to ration medication.
“They don’t have all the tests, and they don’t have all the drugs,” Akgulian said. “You do the best you can with what you have.”
Dr. Nick Akgulian (center)
Akgulian recalled a man who brought his 9-year-old daughter to the clinic where he was working. The young girl was diagnosed with a form of cancer. “We told the father to take his daughter to the capital (Yerevan) for treatment,” Akgulian said.
The father chose not follow that advice because spending the money needed for treatment would have meant taking food away from the other children in the family. The young girl eventually died.
While the living and working conditions sometimes can be difficult to deal with, Akgulian said he enjoys the challenge of helping doctors improve their skills. In addition to teaching in Armenia he’s taught in Belize, a country at the southern tip of Mexico and similar to Armenia in terms of medical resources. Akgulian plans to return to Belize later in April and from there he hopes to go back to Armenia sometime in May.
“The time spent overseas has provided great insight into what life is like for many outside the borders of our country,” he said.