Zatik consiglia:
Iniziativa Culturale:



Nurse directs UCLA's outreach efforts in Armenia
Mar 10, 2011 By Wendy Soderburg
Nurse directs UCLA’s outreach efforts in Armenia
When Salpy Akaragian talks about Armenia, she’s used to people’s blank stares. “Where’s Armenia?” they’ll ask.

“Believe it or not,” said Akaragian, director of UCLA’s international nursing programs and nurse credentialing, “it’s so small that when you put a pin on the country, you can’t even do it. That’s how small it is.”

But for 16 years, the Republic of Armenia — a tiny, landlocked country in Asia Minor bordered by Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia — has been a big part of her life.

Proud of the country in which her ancestors were born, she is also justifiably proud of the good work being done in Armenia by fellow staff members in the School of Nursing, the David Geffen School of Medicine and the UCLA Health System. From 1995 to the present, UCLA has maintained a partnership with USAID/AIHA, Armenia and the Armenian community in Los Angeles to create and establish nine successful health-care programs in the distant country.

Akaragian has directed all nine projects and has seen them through from creation to the sustainability stage. These include a bachelor’s degree equivalent nursing program; a primary health-care model; a private OB/GYN clinic; a CPR training center; the establishment of the Armenian Nurses Association; and a cochlear implant program.

In fact, the cochlear implant program has been going strong since 2004, when the first UCLA team consisting of Akaragian, head and neck surgeon Akira Ishiyama, and several other medical staff traveled to Armenia to perform free cochlear implant surgeries on youth and children. Since then, Akaragian and Ishiyama have continued to make regular trips to Armenia, where their efforts have helped 42 children and young adults gain hearing.

“It’s an honor for me to go, of course,” Akaragian said. “Akira values my presence and my leadership, because when I’m there and problems come up, I can pick up the phone and speak directly with the [Armenian staff] or with the minister of health. ... Over the many years I’ve worked in Armenia, I’ve built that network, I’ve built that trust, I’ve built that connection. They know I am serious. When I have something that needs attention, I really have to make that phone call.”

With her background and language skills, it’s natural to assume that Akaragian was born in Armenia, but she was actually born in Aleppo, Syria. After the Armenian genocide, both sets of Akaragian’s grandparents immigrated to Aleppo to raise their surviving children. Akaragian’s father was a hardworking auto mechanic with exceptional entrepreneurial skills, and he soon opened other businesses, including an import/export company with Germany.

Her mother’s family was too poor to send her to school, so she learned a trade and became a talented seamstress, Akaragian said. “She made beautiful outfits when we were very young; in fact, the whole city would look to see how my mom would dress us up, my sister and I.” With both her parents doing well financially, Akaragian and her siblings — two sisters and a brother — were able to attend private schools, travel and enjoy a comfortable childhood.

When Akaragian was 12, however, all that changed. Political problems in Syria forced her family to abandon their home and businesses and move to Beirut, Lebanon, where her father struggled to start over. For two years he tried, and when he realized he would never be able to provide stability for his family, he packed them up once more and moved them to Cleveland, Ohio, where they had relatives.

Akaragian and Dr. Akira Ishiyama, a head and neck surgeon, have traveled regularly to Armenia to perform free cochlear implant surgeries on children and young adults, 42 of whom have gained hearing.“We had a tough time because we were four kids. People wouldn’t give us a place to rent with four children,” Akaragian recalled. “So my older sister and I lived with my aunt and uncle in the suburbs of Cleveland. We rarely saw my parents because my mom and dad couldn’t drive, and they didn’t speak the language.”

Akaragian said that she and her sister, Maral, attended a nice school and were well-treated by the American children. But she also remembered great pressure to learn English quickly; in fact, they ended up learning the language in three months. “My sister and I would look forward to recess, just so we could talk!” she said.

Finally, Akaragian’s father decided to make one final move — to California, where the weather was temperate. The family settled in Los Angeles in 1968, and Akaragian’s father started working at a gas station as a mechanic. Again, thanks to his hard work, he was able to buy the gas station, “and the rest is history,” Akaragian said.

One of the things her parents emphasized was education, and Akaragian took that to heart. She attended UCLA and received a B.S. in 1975 and a master’s degree in 1980, both in nursing. Her first job was as a part-time nursing assistant at the UCLA Medical Center; over the years, Akaragian rose through the ranks to become director of UCLA’s International Nursing Programs, where she works in outreach for the Department of Nursing. She is also director of UCLA’s Competencies, Students, Credentialing and Teaching Institute.

It’s not just Armenia that benefits from Akaragian’s expertise — she has also hosted visitors from more than 20 different countries and coordinated training experiences for 2,000-plus international visitors. Just recently, she arranged for a Taiwanese nurse manager to shadow members of UCLA’s nursing staff; two nurse managers from Singapore visited in December.

Next on her wish list is the establishment of a master’s program in nursing in Armenia. Yet with all that on her plate, Akaragian remains modest about her contributions.

“I’ve never been an ambitious person, even though I do a lot. I have a lot of passion for whatever I do, but I don’t say, ‘This is what I want to do next,’ ” she said. “I’m more like the person in the organization who sees where the group is heading, and I see how the talents and knowledge that I have can be part of that change. That’s where my drive comes in.”


Il sito è curato dall'Arch. Vahé Vartanian e dal Dott. Enzo Mainardi;
© Zatik - Powered by Akmé S.r.l.