Much-needed MRI Machine for Armenia Team Editorial, 20 September 2010

Some $300,000 was pledged for an MRI machine, to be donated to Armenia, at the gala fundraiser of the Armenian-Canadian Medical Association of Ontario (ACMAO) in Toronto on Sept. 11. Richard Muir and his Jericho Foundation donated $150,000 of that amount. The event featured guest speaker Dr. Raymond Damadian, the famed inventor of the MRI machine. The 360 attendees at the Canadian National Exhibition's Liberty Grand building included 50 young professionals, in addition to Armenians from a wide cross-section of the community. Team Editorial, 20 September 2010

Some $300,000 was pledged for an MRI machine, to be donated to Armenia, at the gala fundraiser of the Armenian-Canadian Medical Association of Ontario (ACMAO) in Toronto on Sept. 11. Richard Muir and his Jericho Foundation donated $150,000 of that amount. The event featured guest speaker Dr. Raymond Damadian, the famed inventor of the MRI machine. The 360 attendees at the Canadian National Exhibition's Liberty Grand building included 50 young professionals, in addition to Armenians from a wide cross-section of the community.

At the top of the evening's agenda was to raise funds to purchase, transport and install an MRI machine with 1.5 Tesla (magnetic flux density) at the Arapgir Children’s Hospital in Yerevan. It will be the first and only one of this capacity in Armenia. It is anticipated that the advanced machine will be installed next spring.

Dr. Gevork Mnatzakanian, the MC of the evening, opened the gala by welcoming the audience. Dr. Avedis Bogosyan, president of the Armenian Medical International Committee (AMIC), extended the greetings of his group and underlined the important work ACMAO does in Artsakh and in Armenia.

ACMAO president Dr. Jack Sakarya delivered a brief and touching message, encouraging attendees to donate to the MRI fund. Dr. Berge Minassian reviewed the work ACMAO has done in Armenia and in Artsakh. He also presented a short video from Armenia, demonstrating the difference a cutting-edge MRI would make in diagnosing and treating patients.

Following Dr. Minassian's presentation, keynote speaker Dr. Damadian took to the podium. His wide-ranging speech included such topics as creationism and the Na-K (sodium-potassium) exchange within a cell whose investigation ultimately led to the invention of MRI. Through video clips and vivid images he demonstrated what goes on inside the body when a person is ailing. MRI, with its modern applications, not only sees through the coverings of the body (skin and bone, etc.), but also minute details within the target tissue. It can inspect the entire body. For example, it can find the origin or extent of the spread of cancer. The entire world has benefited from the invention. It's probably the most important contemporary medical discovery–and it's all the brainchild of the son of a Kayseretsi Armenian. Dr. Damadian's father was saved from the march to Der el-Zor–the "Killing Fields of the Armenian Genocide"– by his brother in Boston who sent money to bribe the Turkish gendarmes to sell him to a Turk who delivered Damadian's father to American missionaries.
Dr. Damadian's speech was followed by an auction. Articles included a wide variety of items, topping all was painter Armand Tatossian's "Serendipity" which has an estimated retail value of $22,000. As in previous ACMAO's gala events, the fundraiser was a success deserving praise and congratulations.

We are all aware of the gloomy economic conditions in our homeland. We know about the structural problems and the dire state of health care delivery in Armenia. Let us complement the already-raised MRI purchase funds to cover expenses related to the training of technicians and radiology specialists who will operate the machine. The medical gift to our Hayastan is a cause worthy of your support and is tax deductible. It will make a substantial difference in health care delivery in Armenia. To donate to the fund, please visit ACMAO's website .

  1. MRI Machine

    I wholeheartedly congratulate the organizers of the ACMAO for this very important undertaking for armenian children. Specially congratulations to Dr Jack Sakarya (whom I know since his early childhood) for his involvement  in the armenian-medical community’s activities.


    Dr. Arto Demirjian

  2. Food for Thought

    I am not a medical doctor therefore I may not be the right person to comment on this editorial, however, I will as a fruit for thought for all its worth.

    Few years ago a medical doctor wrote an opinion as to how intricate medical procedures at times take precedent and fire the public’s imagination and become a “cause célèbre” over affordability and accessorily of the people for much needed routine medical care. His point was then the drive for registration for bone marrow donor compatibility testing for leukemic patients.

    No one can possibly argue against registration for bone marrow compatibility testing or for having the innovative diagnostic tool the MRI is in Armenia. That is not the point of this commentary. I believe purchasing an MRI is the lesser if not the least concern for the realization of the said project. However what will be required is its expert installation, qualification, maintenance, training, operation and so forth to harness the benefits an MRI will provide for long term. All this will come with a price. I am concerned that the MRI will end up meeting the medical needs of the upper echelon of the Armenian society in Armenia while the bulk of the people will not be beneficiaries of this generous donation. The editorial lacks specificities in this regard.

    The next time the Armenian medical community convenes a meeting, I suggest the mundane medical needs a parent faces in raising their children be the topic of the convention; needs such as infection, immunization, eye and ear examination, proper nutrition and so forth and so on and their accessibility to the general public. These topics may not fire imagination as would leukemia, bone marrow, MRI, but they are understandably essential for meeting the medical needs of the children across all the spectrum of the Armenian society both in rural and urban communities.

  3. It’s great to hear, but..

    Dear Compatriots,

    It’s great to hear that an MRI machine is on its way to Armenia. What diaspora Armenians overlook more often than not is who will benefit from this machine: a poor citizen who desperately needs it or some doctor(s) who will consider this machine as being his own possession.

    Anyone who knows about how medical services are delivered in Armenia will attest to the fact that the machine will go into enriching a few individuals in the medical profession including their government collaborators. It must be told that in the last several years scrupulous doctors, dentists and medical profession administrators in general have become our latest "mafiosi" doing their bit to take the government to the cleaners by charging the sick at least twice what the government guidelines are. They generally fail to register patients properly in order to pocket the government’s share probably with the connivance of the health ministry.   

    An MRI service (presumably of lesser Tesla) costs about 80,000 drams or the equivalent of 220 USD. (A minimum government wage amounts to 30,000 a MONTH. An old age/pension about half this amount). This one-of-a-kind machine will no doubt fetch more and will probably enrich more doctors. This is a good example of how diaspora money goes into buying expensive jeeps for our latter-day "mafiosi" doctors. 

    This is an expensive machine with corresponding high service fees. The ACMAO should be in a position to demand and dictate proper accountability. The ACMAO should be able to install its own comptrollor/auditor on this machine if there is no other way to guarantee its proper and honest use. For any donation to Armenia a mechanism has to be created so the recipients are the intended beneficiaries. Some way should be found to have the poor benefit from this service by ways of some quotas perhaps. 

    Having said all this I congratulate the ACMAO for their years of service to our motherland.  

  4. MRI machine

    Heartfelt Congratulations.
    In spite of being “relatively small”, ACMAO has been on the forefront in providing basic medical and dental care to the people of Armenia and Artsakh. And now thanks to your dedication and hard work, and generous donors spearheaded by Richard Muir and the Jericho Foundation you have achieved a new milestone.
    I am thrilled; I think highly of your accomplishment and wish you further success.
    Bedros H. Kojian, M.D.
    Orange, California
  5. Comments on the MRI project

    Thank you for posting the item on ACAMO’s recent fundraiser.  Thank you also to all those who commented on it.  Obviously, we all have to wait till the machine is there and operating. 

    ACMAO considers that any hope for the future of the country rests on two themes:  survive and thrive.  If we ONLY think of the survival component, considering the rampant corruption and poor governance of the country (including very much in the health sector), the poor resources, and the constant external threats, we are engaged in a slow and certain death.  We must find ways to thrive.  At the same time, we cannot neglect to survive!  For this reason, our efforts are divided between meeting basic needs (ACMAO takes care of the lion’s share of dental care in Karabagh and runs a crucial women’s health clinic in Stepanakert), and working to build a future.  The MRI project is not thrusted into the country without background.  ACMAO has been building excellence in Neurology care in Armenia since the earthquake, and at this time it is not acceptable that our country be among select few countries without a proper MRI machine.

    The MRI center will operate on a non-profit basis with paying patients subsidizing those who cannot, and it will operate under ACMAO control and supervision.  We have been on the ground since the start and are fully aware of the rampant kleptocracy.

    The other day, a patient at my hospital in Toronto, had a blood cancer.  He went on to get a full body MRI to find the source and receive proper treatment.  At our gala, with 360 people present, I asked the audience if there was anyone in the room who had not had an MRI or a close family member had not had an MRI.  Very few people raised their hands.

    Berge Minassian

  6. Vahe jan, I can assure you

    Vahe jan, I can assure you 100% that not a single needy family will benefit from this MRI machine. Please read what I wrote earlier carefully. As a diaspora Armenian I have been living here for over 12 years & have been a careful whatcher of what goes on in the medical profession. Blind giving by diaspora Armenians (w/o assurances of accountability) is wrong & may have slowed down the fight against corruption.

    Why can’t a diaspora administrator accountable to the donor organisation come with this expensive machine with proper guidelines as to how the public is to be served. A better solution would be to fetch honest individuals, doctors locally who could be accountable to the donor organisation. I can assure you that there are & I know numerous admirably honest individuals who could run this for the ACMAO. 

    Mike Balabanian, Yerevan    

    1. Sireli Mike
      Sireli Mike, I thank you for responding to my comment. In fact, I liked the wording, Vahe Jan. It sounded so authentically Armenian. I was under the impression that you were for LA, and your last name reminded me of an HS classmate, Mehran.

      I believe the moderator posted the pertaining comments at the same time, even though they were written at a different time. It seems my letter preceded yours by 30 minutes or so.

      Your comments validated my concerns. However, Berge Minassian’s comments were reassuring. All for a good cause.

  7. MRI machine again

    Following my congratulatory note to the executive of the ACMAO and after reading the last two comments, here are my suggestions to the executive. 

    After the big earthquake of 1988, with much difficulty and hardwork we (AMAC of Montreal) managed to send a dialysis machine to Armenia. From other parts of the world numerous dialysis machines were sent as well. I don’t want to discuss what happened to these machines, which were too many for the needs of Armenia, but keep under tight control–if you can–the users, the expenses and incomes, the managers and administrators of  the machine etc. Tough job; good luck.

    In other words, I agree totally with the previous two comments.

    Dr. Arto Demirjian

  8. MRI Machine, source of pride

    We can only be proud of this initiative by ACMAO. Our homeland needs and deserves the MRI machine. I am sure that Drs. Avedis Boghossian and Zareh Ouzounian, who are very patriotic and devoted doctors and have done a lot for Armenia and Artsakh, know the shortcomings of Armenian healthcare system and accordingly will take the preventive measures to avoid any abuse by establishing an auditing and controling systems.

    Congratulations. We are proud of you.

    Dr. Jirair Kuyumjian

    1. Help Armenia vs Armenians in Armenia
      Sireli Jirair, for discussion’s sake…

      In my view it’s time we set sentiments aside when dealing with our homeland. We just celebrated the 19th anniversary of the Third Republic Armenia with joy. I never expected that I would witness the mighty Soviet Union implode and collapse like a deck of cards. I never expected that I would be witness to a free and independent Armenia, albeit within a portion of its historical land, in my lifetime. In my formative years my dear Armenian teachers–Asdouadz hokeneen togh loussavoreh–would tell us that we may not live long enough to see a free and independent Armenia and that our children may not even witness that, too, but we should keep the hope alive for one day it will become a reality. And it came much sooner than I ever thought it would. Nineteen years are enough for us to overcome the euphoric sentiments we rightfully harbored for the utopia that could never have been.

      Diaspora aid, in my view, is meant to help segments of the Armenian society which are not the beneficiaries of the liberated, albeit chaotic and unregulated economy of Armenia. The oligarchs of Armenia can easily purchase MRI machines and set up MRI imaging services for profit. Not all Armenians in Armenia, thankfully, are that destitute. Apparently, wealth is not trickling down to the masses and that is where aid needs to be directed. I think we should do away with the old adage of helping Armenia, but concentrate on helping Armenians in Armenia who need our help and assure that they are beneficiaries of our efforts and hard-earned money.

      That’s why I found Berge Boghossian’s statement regarding the use of the MRI– “Obviously, we all have to wait till the machine is there and operating.“–akin to placing the legendary ‘horse’ before the ‘cart.’ I would rather see that checks and controls are in place in Armenia and operating to receive the hardware intended for use for the benefit of those who would not be able to afford its services otherwise.

      Having said this, I do want to come across as discouraging the current efforts. We need and should support the ACMAO’s efforts to place an MRI in Armenia and applaud its dedication and efforts for the healthcare of needy Armenians. However, we should also make each effort a learning experience and give credence to what Mike Balabanian or others like him who are born and bred in Diaspora and by nature are more observant than the natives for whom that may be the norm for doing business in Armenia, so that we can render better service to the Armenians in Armenia who need our help.

  9. It’s a sad fact

    It’s a sad fact that Diaspora has lost faith in Armenia’s internal structure. Probably the meager amount of donations (only 300,000) towards a worthy cause is a reflection of that malaise. Will it take another 20 years to restore faith?
  10. Surprised!

    I am just surprised that the Armenian government is unable to supply even a single MRI machine to its citizens.

    There are also millionaires and billionaires in that country, what are their priorities? How come a Diaspora has to worry about a country that has its own government, economy, advisors, billionaires, etc.

  11. Has the High-field MRI Scanner Been Installed?

    I heard 1,5 Tesla high-field MRI scanner has been installed in Armenia recently. Can someone please confirm its status?

    Thank you.

Comments are closed.

You May Also Like