A group of medical professionals is scheduled to depart Fresno Yosemite International Airport on Saturday morning, traveling halfway around the world to help those in need.
They originally planned to leave Friday only to have their flight canceled.
It is the seventh Fresno Medical Mission-Armenia, arranged by Armenian Honorary Consul Berj Apkarian. Every year since 2015 (absent the 2020 pandemic year), a volunteer group has traveled to Armenia to provide aid.
“With the recent aggression by Azeris and attacking sovereign nation, it fueled our energy to do even more and to give more. And I tell you, I am so proud of our community,” Apkarian said at the airport Friday before the canceled flight.
(Watch) Armenian Medical Mission is Ready For Help
The focus of this year’s trip is to help injured soldiers and others affected by recent military skirmishes with Azerbaijan, said Apkarian.
Apkarian’s employer, Community Health Systems, is helping fund the trip.
The Fresno group, 16 strong, will join up with 17 other medical professionals round the country for two weeks. They are also bringing medicine and supplies. The combined delegation will include surgeons, dentists, pediatricians, and physiotherapists.
A Desire to Give Back
“I think that’s why we all went into this profession, physical therapy. We wanted to help or assist people in some way. We have that altruistic characteristic.” — Kristina Koroyan
Several in the delegation say the nearly 20-hour journey from Fresno to Dallas to Doha, Qatar to Yerevan, Armenia is well worth it.
Kristina Koroyan is a therapist with Sanger Physical Therapy. This is her third trip.
“The need there is lots of hands-on work. I think with the injuries that we’ve seen, individuals have then been given the right exercises or the right protocols to follow after a certain injury. So I think our role is to educate them as much as possible,” Koroyan said.
She hopes to train therapists in Armenia as well.
“I think that’s why we all went into this profession, physical therapy. We wanted to help or assist people in some way. We have that altruistic characteristic, I suppose,” Koroyan said.
For Clovis dentist Dr. Vatche Wassilian, it is about giving back. He is originally from Lebanon and attended medical school in Armenia.
“This is the spirit of the United States. That’s what we learned here from this great country. … to help when there are people that need to be helped,” Wassilian said. “This is the time to go. When you have the chance because the people, they need us. (Armenia) needs us.”
Karbassi on Official Business
Fresno City Councilman Mike Karbassi will join the medical professionals on the trip. In addition to showing support, he has official business.
“(Armenia) wants to have an economic exchange with Fresno in the Valley. And so my focus is right now to go and meet with them, meet with the university folks and meet with their people in the federal government to see what trade options we have. They produce wine, for example, I’m taking Fresno State wine,” Karbassi said.
“They’re developing economies, which means there can be a lot of economic growth. So it can be very beneficial to Valley businesses.”
Although he will be away from Fresno during the Sept. 29 city council meeting, Karbassi said he would attend via Zoom. The 11-hour difference means the 9 a.m. Fresno start time is 8 p.m. for him.
Karbassi’s trip is taxpayer funded.