What is resilience?
The movie, “The Promise,” is a film that deals with the Armenian tragedy in art-form. According to Raffi Cavoukian, C.M., O.B.C., writing for The Huffington Post, “You will be moved to tears.” He went on to say that, “The pain and trauma of the Armenian genocide can never be fully eased. The Armenian community has been forced to scatter from their geographical origins, which has severed their connection as a people. Three million Armenians currently live in Armenia while 8-10 million live in other places around the globe.”
Partnerships, promise, resilience
Prior to 1993, I never imagined visiting the newly independent Republic of Armenia. It is amazing how things happen, doors open, and life is reimagined. As US partnership coordinator for three US-Armenia partnerships, I had the opportunity to visit what is affectionately referred to as “The Motherland” for the first time. I saw firsthand the “promise” of a people whose mission was to preserve and protect the country and her people. I saw a resilient people, and I soon became a part of that promise.
Under the initial cooperative agreement signed with USAID in 1992, two hospital-based partnerships and an outpatient partnership were established the following year in Yerevan, Armenia. The partnerships improved targeted healthcare services while strengthening the country’s capacity for ongoing improvements in the quality of care. The first partnership brought together the Erebouni Medical Center with Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and focused on improving women’s health services and Harvard Medical School Alumni, focused on medical education. My colleagues from Erebouni, Haroutioun Kushkyan and Nara Mamikonyan, arranged for honorary citizenship documents for me, allowing me to enter and leave the Republic as needed – what an incredible honor.
The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Medical Center replaced Beth Israel Hospital as the US partner in 1995 and the resulting Yerevan/Los Angeles partnership expanded its scope to encompass neonatal resuscitation and nursing education.
The second Armenia partnership was between the Emergency Scientific Medical Center in Yerevan and Boston University Medical Center (BUMC) and Boston City Hospital. This partnership initially focused on improving emergency medical services (EMS), including the development of an EMS training center (EMSTC), and later was expanded to address infection control, nursing and medical education, and hospital administration. I’ll never forget my maiden visit to the Holy Temple of Etchmiadzin Cathedral, accompanied by Dr. Ara Minasyan, chief of Emergency Scientific Medical Center. The Cathedral is the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, located in the city of Vagharshapat, Armenia. Dr. Minasyan is the former medical director of the Temple. The initial partnership has survived the test of time; BUMC has established a medical elective for fourth-year medical students at St. Grigor Lusavorich Medical Center, in Yerevan, Republic of Armenia. The elective is open to medical students from accredited medical schools in the United States and Canada. St. Grigor Lusavorich Medical Center is directed by Ara Minasyan.
The third program was between an outpatient center known as Diagnostica, and LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City. As US coordinator, it was my privilege and honor to serve the partners from both parts of the globe.
My role involved collaboration, communication, strategic partnering and at times, politics. Meeting with the Minister of Health for a debriefing following each visit provided the opportunity to build upon our successes and celebrate our accomplishments. A meeting with First Lady Lucia Ter-Petrosyan gave me an opportunity to tour the local orphanages, visit her at Sevan Lake, and to understand her commitment to Armenia’s future. She demonstrated resilience. A few years later, a meeting at the home of First Lady, Bella Kocharyan, gave me a chance to learn more about her medical training as an epidemiologist, and to address our mutual plans for nursing’s future.
Multiple trips to the “Motherland” brought me closer and closer to the Armenian people, and my promise was to continue to foster the development of nursing excellence, continuous learning, and partnership. The opportunity to charter the first chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (STTI) in Yerevan was a part of that promise. Co-sponsorship of the First, Second, and Third International Nursing Congresses in Yerevan were a part of that promise. My continued respect for, and collaboration with, my Armenian partners is an ongoing element of that promise.
It has been twenty-four years since my first visit to The Motherland. Twenty-four years have generated long-term friendships, ongoing collaboration, and a solid future. When I speak to others about my involvement in Armenia, they ask if I am of Armenian descent. Although my Armenian colleagues affectionately referred to me as “Weinsteinian” or “Sharonjon,” no, I am not Armenian. I am, however, and always will be, respectful of the small country, yet a great nation, that has taught me about partnership, promise, and resilience.