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Armenian EyeCare Project

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At the request of the Minister of Health, the EyeCare Project will take the lead, in partnership with the Armenian Health Ministry and the Malayan Eye Hospital, to build five Regional Eye Clinics throughout Armenia. The cost of the project is approximately five million over a period of five years — “Five-for-Five” — and includes physical build-out, medical equipment, administrative office equipment, computers and furnishings, physician and ancillary ophthalmological staff training including Telesurgery Program, medical systems and records, personnel, an eyeglass center, an infant center linked to the Center for the Elimination of Infant and Childhood Blindness in Yerevan and a low vision center. Community outreach and education will also be an important part of the Regional Eye Clinic system to emphasize the importance of prevention and early intervention.

• Gyumri is the second largest city in Armenia and the capital of the Shirak Province in the northwestern part of the country. The first settlement at the location of modern-day Gyumri was founded in 401 BC, by Greek colonists.

• Yeghegnadzor is the capital of the Vayots Dzor Province in the southern part of the country. It is one of the ancient settlements of the Vayots Dzor canton within the historic province of Syunik.

• Kapan is the seventh largest city in Armenia and the capital of the Syunik Province in the southeast part of country. The area around Kapan was first mentioned in the 5th century as a small settlement.

• Ijevan — our first named Clinic — the “Haig John Boyadjian Regional Eye Clinic” in Ijevan, the capital of the Tavush Province in the northern part of Armenia. According to tradition, King Artavasdes I built a city at Ijevan about 2,000 years ago. He gathered only the beautiful girls and the handsome boys from all over Armenia, so that later they would get married and settle in the newly established town.

• Vanadzor is the third largest city in Armenia and the capital of the Lori Province in the northern part of the country. The area of Vanadzor has been settled since the Bronze Age, based on the tombs and other historic remains found on the nearby hills of Tagavoranist and Mashtots.

Too Many Without Care in Armenia. The AECP Mobile Eye Hospital has provided eye care for hundreds of thousands since it was delivered to Armenia in 2002, yet the accessibility and affordability of eye care continues to be extremely limited and disproportionately affects the poor and those living in remote regions. It requires two years for the Mobile Eye Hospital to make one full rotation of Armenia, enabling people to see an eye doctor only once every two years. This can cause serious problems for those with chronic eye disease, people who suffer an injury to their eye, infant and childhood eye disease that can cause lifelong damage if not treated at an early age and for people who require cataract or other surgery. Just four towns outside of Yerevan provide basic eye care and most surgery is available only in the capital. Few Armenians are able to travel the distance because of cost or other factors and they have to go without care, leaving many visually disabled.

Bringing Sight to Armenian Eyes. In the United States people accept cataracts as a part of aging and cataract surgery is a common procedure. Sadly, Armenians have learned to accept blindness as a part of aging because they have no access to eye care. In Armenia just one out of four who need cataract surgery have access to care. Think about that — 75 percent of Armenians, age 65 and over, with cataracts in one or both eyes, are partially or completely blind because they do not have access to cataract surgery — more than 68,000 people today. The physical, emotional and financial costs of complete or partial blindness for the individual, her family and the state are immeasurable.

Cataract Crisis Looming — the Major Cause of Blindness in Armenia. As bad as it is today, the eye care situation in Armenia is about to become much worse. Today 30 percent of the population —91,000 Armenians — age 65 and over, have cataracts in one or both eyes, causing partial or complete blindness. By 2050, in a little more than 30 years, that number will more than double as the population ages and life expectancy increases.

Geographical and financial access to eye care. The Regional Eye Clinics will be geographically situated throughout the country so all Armenians who need eye care will have access. And — a long-term objective of the EyeCare Project — the Regional Eye Clinics will be self-sustaining. Those who are deemed poor will always receive eye care at no charge. Others will pay on a sliding scale according to their ability to pay.

EyeCare Project Goals and Accomplishments. I never would have believed that we could accomplish as much as we have in the past 22 years. With your help and the help of so many others — medical manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies, volunteer doctors, USAID — we have been able to do some amazing things and have literally changed the landscape of eye care in Armenia. We delivered a state-of-the-art Mobile Eye Hospital to Armenia in 2002, and have seen more than 300,000 and restored the sight of nearly 15,000 Armenians through cataract and other surgery. We have saved infants from a lifetime of blindness through our ROP Program and Center for the Elimination of Infant and Childhood Blindness — and a state-of-the-art Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, reducing infant blindness by 90%. We established a medical education and training center with libraries, classrooms and a wet lab. We have trained hundreds of doctors and ancillary medical personnel in the art and science of ophthalmology. We sponsored six one-year fellowships at the finest medical institutions in America. Each of these fellows returned to Armenia to train their colleagues and direct clinics in their sub-specialty — Retina, Cornea-Uveitis, Glaucoma, Pediatrics, Neuro-Orbital and Low Vision. And more than 50,000 Armenians have received prescription eyeglasses at no charge.

Medical Education and Training. The cornerstone of our programs, medical education and training, has enabled Armenian eye care physicians to leverage the knowledge and skills we have taught them to train their colleagues. Our most recent training program, Telesurgery, in partnership with Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles, will be implemented in each of the Regional Eye Clinics thereby creating a self-sustaining program. Interactive lectures and supervision during surgery, provided by academics in the United States to colleagues in Armenia, with highly specialized cameras and surgical equipment has had a significant impact on physician training. Training can be done fairly quickly and for relatively little money, particularly with physicians donating their time, which ours do.

We Need You More Than Ever — Annual Newport Gala Sponsors — November 22, Armenian Festival. I am writing to invite you to our 12th Annual Newport Gala celebrating our 22nd Anniversary. Your attendance will make it a special evening for us and a success for the EyeCare Project so we can provide eye care for the thousands in Armenia who need us. We also want to invite you to become a sponsor for our Armenian Festival to celebrate our 20th Anniversary. We need your help — we can’t operate without the support of our friends! By becoming a sponsor you will change lives and contribute directly to the elimination of preventable blindness in Armenia—a goal we have been successfully working toward for 22 years.

Naming Opportunities — First Clinic in Tavush Named — the “Haig John Boyadjian Regional Eye Clinic.” There are a number of naming opportunities for our donors to our Regional Eye Clinic Program. We will name rooms — operating, reception, etc. — or the entire clinic — after you or someone you would like to honor. There will be a Donor Wall in each clinic where all donors to the Clinic will be listed. We are also acknowledging all Sponsors and Donors to our Annual Gala on November 22, in the evening’s printed program.

CONTACT: The Armenian EyeCare Project, a California Nonprofit Corporation, Federal Tax ID No. 47-0850159 * P.O. box 5630, Newport Beach, California 92662 * 949-933-4069