Friends and former health ministers who personally knew Dr. Housepian, as well as Armenia’s current Health Minister Armen Muradyan, paid their respects to this great humanitarian and his immeasurable contribution to the lives of Armenians and development of their health care system.
“Dr. Housepian was a great humanitarian – one of the most humble but also one of the most generous of FAR’s supporters. It was thanks to his continuous attention that we managed to renovate and make this library such a modern and beautiful place,” said FAR Armenia Country Director Bagrat Sargsyan during the ceremony.
Thanks to the initiative and support of Dr. Housepian, FAR has been able to continuously contribute to the development of the library, ensuring its access to prestigious international medical magazines and electronic databases, and its ability to publish Armenian versions of medical abstracts and create its own website.
A bright smile on the face of 12-year-old Hermine is a huge reward when it comes to project feedback. Hermine lives in the border village of Nerkin Karmiraghbyur in Tavush Province. Her days are accompanied by the sound of gunfire along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.
In addition to FAR’s Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP)*, which aims to holistically address social, economic, health, educational and family issues in Tavush in order to improve life in its communities, FAR also tries to bring moments of joy to beneficiaries in unexpected ways whenever we can. Our “Chocolate Bank” was one such way. FAR and Ayo! staff collected more than 500 kilos of sweets through a recent Facebook campaign, which called on companies, organizations and individuals to donate candy.
The response was amazing. We were able to fill 324 bags with chocolate, then got into our cars and drove to Tavush where we gave them to Hermine and 827 other children to share. We delivered bags to Berd city, along with the villages of Verin Tsaghkavan, Paravakar, Tavush, Chinari, Varagavan, Nerkin Karmiraghbyur, Aygepar and Chinchin.
We also dropped some bags at FAR’s two soup kitchens in Byureghavan and Nor Hajn in Kotayk Province so that the children who go there for their daily meal would receive an extra treat on Armenia’s “old” New Year’s Day, January 13th. For many of these kids, these chocolate bags are the only gifts they received for the recent holidays.
Get a glimpse of the day by watching our video and taking a look at the photos we took on our trip to Tavush.
*Breaking the Cycle of Poverty, Developing Thriving Communities was founded by the Mardigian Family Foundation through the largest contribution ever made to FAR.
Thirty scientific groups have been chosen as this year’s winners of the Armenian National Science and Education Fund (ANSEF). Each group will receive a $5,000 grant to support further development of their research in biology, physics, chemistry, biotechnology or astronomy, among other areas.
FAR’s Education and Science Programs Manager Eduard Karapetyan opened the January 23 ANSEF award ceremony by congratulating all 108 scientists who make up these 30 groups. Armenian National Academy of Science President Radik Martisoryan then thanked the ANSEF Research Council for its honest and unbiased work, while emphasizing its importance and the value of these grants to scientists, particularly young scientists, of Armenia.
ANSEF’s Research Council received 174 applications this year. In recent years ANSEF has put a special emphasis on supporting young scientists. Also, as a continuation of the partnership between FAR, the Armenian Youth Foundation and the Young Scientists Support Program, two grants out of the 30 were specifically allocated to young scientists who were under the age of 35.
And the number of the young scientists who have received ANSEF grants has increased year after year overall. Nineteen principal investigators of the 30 winning groups are under the age of 35 (up from 18 from the previous year) and 15 of them are women (up from 12 last year).
“It is a pleasure to state that the Armenian scientists have quickly learned to prepare outstanding proposals that would compete well anywhere in the world with very significant science,” said ANSEF Chairman and Cornell Astrophysicist Dr. Yervant Terzian. “The 2015 winners are all outstanding and deserve praises as most reviewers have stated. We warmly congratulate all the winners and wish them the very best success in their research work. Let us bring new knowledge to the world and educate all people.”
For the past 15 years, ANSEF has supported nearly 372 scientific research groups, and 1,438 individual scientists, through a total contribution of more than $1.86 million.
Arsen and Naira Pinkhasov, both 14, have already experienced so much hardship in their short lives. Their mother was sentenced to prison for robbery and fraud. She gave birth to the twins in prison and the two spent most of their early childhood years within its walls. Once they turned three they were forced to leave and live with their grandmother. Their tragic start to life left a scar, which, until recently, manifested itself in everything –from their gestures to their language and behavior.
For the third time, these siblings have found shelter at the FAR’s Children Center. They previously spent time at the Center during 2013 and 2014, but only for a short while as their abusive and usually absentee father showed up to pull them out so they wouldn’t be sent to an orphanage. Arsen and Naira also have a 15-year-old old sister and a five-year-old brother who now live in the apartment of their mother’s friend. The physical and psychological abuse inflicted on all of them by their father remain horrible memories. One of the rare times Arsen and Naira received proper parental attention was the time they spent with their grandmother. This time was cut short, however, when their grandmother was sent to prison for robbery. “Thanks to my grandma, we were taken care of and she was very thorough at the same time; she wanted us to be good men. She even took us to singing classes. I was so happy to attend those classes,” Arsen said. “But everything ended when my grandma was arrested.”
Center staff have worked closely with Arsen and Naira using psychotherapy, music and art therapy, games, film screenings, group discussions and even debates between the brother and sister, which has helped them to change their behavior. Steady encouragement and respect from Center specialists allowed the children to overcome their self-consciousness and shyness.
Arsen now approaches things in a more positive way. He is quick-witted, considerate and respectful towards everyone. He spends much of his time composing music and writing lyrics and loves to show his talent as a singer. Naira is active, energetic and smart. She recently discovered a love of acting and took a small role in a play that the Center put on for their guests.
Arsen and Naira will spend some more time at the Center before they are moved to SOS Children’s Village, a family-style orphanage, until their mother is released from prison in July 2016. As they wait to be reunited with their mother they appear to remain balanced, calm and self-disciplined. They will continue to listen and respect others. They are more self-confident and actually harbor hope for the future. “Here, I was able to feel like I could experience a real childhood. I overcame my fears,” Arsen said.
Naira has expressed the same. “I have been able to forget about [my father] and all the spite I had for him. I am more self-confident. I learned how to paint, how to work with clay, to listen to fairy-tales, and express my point of view. I am no more afraid of dark nights and I can sleep peacefully. I’ve decided to become an actress and play different roles. I’m safe here now,” she said. “Thank you for this.”
Dr. Edgar Housepian was legendary for his compassionate and pioneering medical and humanitarian work. A man who typified to the greatest extent the Hippocratic oath, he exemplified the best in humanity, and he did so in his typically quiet, gentle and humble manner. Dr. Housepian passed away on November 14th, 2014, at the age of 86.
More than 200 friends, colleagues and admirers came to St. Vartan Cathedral on February 14th to pay their respects to his memory and vision in a special tribute organized by Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR). Primate of the Armenian Diocese (Eastern) Archbishop Khajag Barsamian related the enormous contributions of Dr. Housepian to the Armenian Church, the Republic of Armenia, and the American community in his inspiring eulogy that day.
Dr. Housepian was heir to a remarkable family tradition through his parents Dr. Moses and Makrouhi Housepian who were “pioneers in humane outreach to our homeland in an earlier era. Their example inspired their son to excel in his profession, and to share his gifts with those less fortunate than himself,” he stated. Like his parents, he immediately volunteered his expertise when his countrymen faced the enormous tragedy of the 1988 earthquake in Armenia.
With “intrepid determination, Dr. Housepian joined the late Archbishop Torkom Manoogian and the late Kevork Hovnanian in creating the Fund for Armenian Relief following a “‘mission of mercy’ to our homeland just days after the tragedy,” related the Primate. “Even when the immediate crisis subsided, he was the guiding light in the effort to restructure the health care system in Armenia. Due to his legendary foresight a new generation of Armenian physicians would enjoy opportunities for training and education undreamt of previously. His efforts made lasting improvements in the way people are cared for in Armenia. And here in America he saved the lives of many who had never met him. He is an ‘example of the Armenian heritage at its best.’”
For his extraordinary service, Dr. Housepian was honored in 1992 as the Eastern Diocese’s “Armenian Church Member of the Year,” and in 2010 FAR honored him for his 20 years of relief and development work in Armenia.
A GATHERING OF REMEMBRANCE
Following the church memorial service the large crowd gathered in Kavookjian Hall of the Armenian Diocese for a memorial meal (hokejash), and tribute reception under the auspices of FAR. Special guests attending the tribute were the Primate, Armenia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Zohrab Mnatsakanian, FAR Board of Directors Chairman Randy Sapah-Gulian, and Board members Dr. Aram Chobanian and Professor Annette Choolfaian.
The able Master of Ceremonies Dr. Tavit Najarian in his welcoming message paid tribute to the “legacy and selfless devotion of my friend, my confidant and my cherished adviser Dr. Housepian who touched our lives in so many ways.” He introduced Dr. Chobanian who along with Dr. Housepian, “both professionally and intellectually were kindred spirits.”
Dr. Chobanian eloquently called his relationship a “friendship between mortals, and contemporaries in medicine.” He revealed that Dr. Housepian was involved in many projects in Armenia, including many outside of the medical arena, all of which were “very effective,” including the National Medical Library and the Children’s Nutrition Project, among others. “Early in his career he went back to new approaches to Parkinson’s Disease and brain areas, which became the foundation for robotic surgery,” he said. Dr. Housepian wrote many scientific papers and was the recipient of many honors, the most important being the Endowed Professorship in his name established by Columbia University.
Dr. Housepian “led a life of purpose,” said Dr. Chobanian, quoting the legendary poet Robert Burns, and extolled his extraordinary personal qualities, including humility, modesty, respect, thoughtfulness, integrity and his dry sense of humor. He was a consummate physician and a superb role model,” he declared. Annette Choolfaian, a medical manager at several American medical institutions, worked “with great resolve” with Dr. Housepian to bring young medical professionals from Armenia to America to hone their skills at various hospitals here, said Dr. Najarian in his introduction.
With obvious emotion, Ms. Choolfaian recalled the 20 years of “good times where we did major things in Armenia. Though Dr. Housepian was a man of few words he was never afraid to confront the truth. We have an empty seat at the table, but he will always be with us,” she said while trying to choke back tears.
A video depicted many charming facets of Dr. Housepian’s life. His father was born in Kessab, Syria, fought with the resistance in Zeitoun, went to Alexandria, Egypt, where he worked in burlesque as a song and dance man. In 1900, he came to the U.S., where he studied medicine, and “delivered most of the Armenians at that time.” The elder Dr. Housepian and his wife Makrouhi had two children Edgar and Marjorie, who became a well-known author.
As a youth, Dr. Edgar Housepian desired to be a pilot, and thus joined the Naval Air Force. Following his service he studied medicine on the GI Bill, became an eminent neuro surgeon where he authored more than 100 books and articles and received numerous awards, including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. The greatest pride and joy of Dr. Edgar and his wife Marion who preceded him in death by exactly one year, were their three children, sons Steven and David, and daughter Jean.
UNIQUE FAMILIAL TRIBUTE
With a light-hearted manner and through a series of family slides, Steven revealed his father’s playfulness (trying to make a parachute out of the shower curtain), teaching five-year olds a CPR course in their house basement, driving an old 1972 Pontiac Lamont convertible, hugging all his children’s friends after two martinis, and loving Peter Sellars and Peter Lorre (his favorite film being Casablanca). “He was an up and coming neuro-surgeon who liked a good time, a man of many hats,” said Steven with emotion. “His most powerful trait was integrity which you cannot teach,” he declared with emphasis.
Daughter Jean, a registered nurse, quietly called her father the “best dad and granddad in the world. He shaped me. He was the glue that kept the family together all over the world, and [was] one of the smartest people with a great memory. … Our family was truly a ‘Houseful of Love’,” she said quoting the book title of her aunt. She related her father’s love of jazz, photography, his fun-loving and his romantic natures, and his embrace of other cultures. “He was a true New Yorker who taught us to treat all with respect and do the right thing – not the easy thing. He always said talk less and listen more.”
Son David, in his tribute, spoke contemplatively about his memories. “He taught us that life is what you make it. It’s about the ride, not the destination.” He then read the poem “IF,” his father’s favorite. Then with a special quietness he revealed that after his father’s death the three children sat around a blazing fire for hours, not saying a word, each immersed in his or her special thoughts.
Closing the inspiring memorial Dr. Najarian called Dr. Housepian “a remarkable individual in the true sense of the word, a renaissance man both professionally and intellectually. Through his activities at FAR he touched the lives of so many, both here in the States and in Armenia. And he did so with his typically modest and dignified mien.” He then quoted the great Samuel Taylor Coleridge. “He is the best physician who is the most ingenious inspirer of hope,” he said. “This pretty much defines Dr. Edgar Housepian.”
All of us at FAR wish Anoush Mathevosian, founder of FAR’s Mathevosian Scholarship Program, a very happy birthday. Our entire team, along with all 94 Mathevosian-supported students, send our warmest congratulations and best wishes to this lovely woman.
Ever since her first visit to Armenia in 1994 Anoush has worked with FAR to implement various programs. Since 1996, she has helped 273 young Armenians to fulfill their dream of going to school and furthering their careers through her scholarship program. Many of her projects were carried out in loving memory of her sister Siranoush. The #8 Secondary School in Vanadzor was built and named after her sister, as was the “Siranoush” Summer Camp in Yeghregnadzor where orphans and needy children from various regions of Armenia come for several weeks each year. Anoush also helped to renovate Yerevan State University’s philological faculty’s hall.
These are just a few examples of the things that have been made possible by such a wonderful woman. Once again, we congratulate you, dear Anoush and wish you good health and happiness. God bless you!
After meeting with Nagorno Karabakh’s Deputy Minister of Health, FAR is set to become a chief partner of the ministry, with whom it will work to find solutions for a number of health problems. Part of this strategy involves relying heavily on the Continuing Medical Education Program (CME) as an integral training resource for Karabakh’s physicians.
FAR Health Programs Manager Hambardzum Simonyan, along with Health Programs Assistant Aelita Sargsyan, met with Karabakh’s Deputy Minister of Health Zoya Lazaryan following a recent CME training for pediatricians and OBGYNs in Stepanakert. Mrs. Lazaryan had collaborated with CME staff during the planning stages for the training. Lecturers Dr. Hripsime Apresyan from the Nork Infectious Diseases Center, and Dr. Rusadan Vardanyan from the Shengavit Medical Center, also joined the meeting.
They discussed infectious diseases and pregnancy and the lecturing physicians presented possible solutions for a number of health problems in Karabakh, which Mrs. Lazaryan promised to explore in the future. “Our close cooperation with FAR has always been fruitful but when it comes to training doctors we’re able to do so largely thanks to the work of FAR,” she said, emphasizing that many of Karabakh’s physicians don’t have the means to attend continuing education programs on their own. “I want to concentrate on CME so when we talk about professional training for doctors it will be understood that the lion’s share of it will be done by FAR and we are very grateful for this.”
Since 2005, roughly 500 physicians from Armenia and Karabakh have participated in CME’s month-long trainings in Yerevan. Karabakh was added to the program in 2011 thanks to the financial support of U.S. physicians from the Armenian American Health Professionals Organization.