Sydney surgeon Raffi Qasabian on mission to save lives in Armenia
Sydney surgeon Raffi Qasabian on mission to save lives in Armenia –
Daily Telegraph – For the past decade Dr Qasabian has travelled to his parent’s native Armenia twice a year to perform lifesaving endovascular surgeries, which involves repairing damaged blood vessels to prevent strokes and gangrene.
Born in Australia to Armenian parents, Dr Qasabian, of Glebe, was instilled with a strong sense of his family’s culture while growing up and made it his goal to make a difference over there.
“When I first went there (in 2004) I expected to be this knight in shining armour, going to take endovascular treatment to Armenia,” he said.
However his lofty goals were quickly dashed after learning the monumental task in front of him.
“There are two types of vascular surgery: there is open surgery, where we do big, open cuts; and there is endovascular surgery, where we can do similar things, but through keyhole,” he said.
“Boy, was I in for a big shock, because they didn’t even have open surgery skills.
“So I was realising very quickly that actually these people needed regular open vascular surgery as a service.”
Although patients have died while waiting to see Dr Qasabian, in the past 10 years he has seen 2000 patients and operated on 150, while also training Armenian surgeon Eduard Aghiyan, who helps run the clinic.
“Eduard’s dream is to become a vascular surgeon and improve the plight of vascular surgery in Armenia,” he said.
“The real difference will be made when Eduard has his own trainees.”
Dr Qasabian said the regular trips to Armenian had cost his about $100,000 a year in lost wages. The effort has been worth it though, with the surgeon receiving a medal from Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan for his contribution to the country’s medicine.
Dr Qasabian said his frequent journeys back to Armenia has also helped him to get back his roots and connect with his fellow Armenians.
“I get so much out of it — a tremendous sense of satisfaction,” he said.
His dream is to start a vascular surgical school and invite doctors out to Australia for training.