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Local doc finds way to give back to Armenia

December 14, 2011|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com
  • Dr. Kotikian examines the cleft lip and palette of a newborn. (Photo courtesy of Sara Anjargolian)
Dr. Kotikian examines the cleft lip and palette of a newborn.…

La Cañada Flintridge resident Armond Kotikian, DDS, MD, is used to plying his trade as an oral maxillofacial surgeon in the well-equipped surgical theaters of Glendale Adventist and Glendale Memorial hospitals. But he got a lesson in improvisation while performing pro bono surgeries in Armenia this past summer.

In his first-person account, “Tools of the Trade Across Borders,” an article published online at www.hetq.am, Kotikian describes the hospital in the Armenian province of Karabagh in which he performed dozens of surgeries over a five-day period:

“There was no air conditioning in the hospital and the temperature would reach the low 90s at noon. The nurses had special sterile instruments to dab our foreheads so we wouldn’t contaminate the field with our sweat. The hospital water occasionally ran out, and the operating nurses had to rinse our arms and hands with small buckets of water after we scrubbed. I was operating with instruments I thought didn't exist anymore. Despite all this, things went as smoothly as they do in our pampered operating rooms in the United States.”

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Now back at home, Kotikian said his time in Karabagh was an inspirational experience.

“What I learned was that, regardless of the conditions, if you have the surgical training, you’ll get by with whatever they have to get the best outcome on the patient,” he said.

Kotikian was in Armenia for the Armenian Medical International Congress, an event held every four years that draws Armenian physicians from all over the globe. He said he had been asked to lecture at the congress, and at the time he accepted the invitation, he decided to reach out to provide his services to an area in need.

“I’m about two years out of residency, and I’ve been meaning to do this for a very a long time,” he said. “It was a good way to go back and give back to my country.”

It was especially gratifying, Kotikian said, to work in Karabagh, an area in dire need of oral surgical care.

“It’s close to 130,000 people, and there’s only one individual there who is an oral-maxillofacial surgeon, just like me,” he said.

In addition to working with that surgeon, Dr. Sasun Vahanyan, to repair cleft lips and palates, remove oral and neck tumors and even remove a set of wisdom teeth, Kotikian worked to educate the local professionals in the newest techniques.

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