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Valley Children's Hospital Partnership Sends Fresno Doctors, Nurses to Armenia
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By Edward Smith
Published 5 months ago on
November 3, 2023

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A partnership between Valley Children’s Hospital and an Armenian hospital will advance the level of care provided to women and children in that country.

Valley Children’s CEO Todd Suntrapak Thursday signed an agreement with the CEO of Wigmore Women’s & Children’s Hospital, Dr. Zaven Koloyan, for an ongoing exchange of medical professionals.

The union will bring doctors from Armenia to the Valley’s biggest pediatric hospital to train and send local doctors, nurses, and medical staff to Armenia to help develop operations in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.

“The ultimate goal of this collaboration is for Wigmore Hospital to become the standard of care within Armenia and potentially other countries in that region,” said Dr. Varoujan Altebarmakian, retired Fresno physician and program advisor for Wigmore Hospital.

Wigmore Women’s & Children’s Hospital CEO Dr. Zaven Koloyan, left, and Valley Children’s CEO Todd Suntrapak display the agreement, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (GV Wire/Edward Smith)

Armenian Connection in Fresno United the Two Hospitals

In 2016, when Koloyan was doing his residency in what is considered one of Yerevan’s best hospitals, he witnessed “Soviet-style management, poor infrastructure, poor economics and very low level of education.”

“But the main trouble for me is there was no other place to go because it was the best hospital,” Koloyan said.

Koloyan decided to start a new hospital to provide pediatric care.

Founders reached out to Altebarmakian to take on an advisory role at the hospital which he was told would “change the culture of health care delivery systems in that country.”

Wigmore Hospital opened in December 2022. But to advance care, Altebarmakian said they needed a partner in the U.S. That’s when they turned to Valley Children’s Hospital.

“After a few years of working on the organizational structure and the leadership roles, we realized that we needed a partner outside Armenia to train the leaders and also the physicians in Armenia,” Altebarmakian said.

Partnership to Expand Specialty Care at Wigmore

The focus of the exchange will be to advance specialty care at Wigmore, said Tatevik Koloyan-Kayfajyan, chief development officer at Wigmore.

This means expanding surgical and critical care, neurosurgery, and emergency medicine. The country does not offer formal training in many specialties, Koloyan-Kayfajyan said.

“We’re exploring the constant education, lifelong learning of our physicians and nurses,” Koloyan-Kayfajyan said. “We hope to really elevate the education level and the training of the physicians and the nurses both.”

The first cohort of doctors arrived in Fresno in May. In October, a second group of three doctors came from Wigmore to Valley Children’s for a two-week rotation. At the hospital, they will conduct rounds and observe how the hospital runs.

In the future, Valley Children’s will send medical staff to Wigmore.

Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, is home to 1 million people. But the hospital provides service to the entire country, Koloyan-Kayfajyan said.

The need for care at Wigmore is similar to that of Valley Children’s, Koloyan-Kayfajyan said. They treat a lot of trauma, and during flu season, they have a heightened demand for care.

Suntrapak said it would be “impossible to untether Valley Children’s history from the significant contributions” made by individuals of Armenian descent.

“The support we have received over seven decades from our Armenian friends, brother, and sisters, it’s our great honor to be able to support Wigmore and their work in caring for children half-a-world away,” Suntrapak said.

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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