Following four trips to Armenia, a team led by physicians from Mass General's Wellman Center for Photomedicine has established two laser clinics there. 

Following their fourth humanitarian mission trip to Yerevan, Armenia recently, Lilit Garibyan, MD, PhD, of the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Rox Anderson, MD, director of the Wellman Center, have established two independent medical laser clinics there.

“It’s been a long and arduous effort to get these clinics up and running …”

“It’s been a long and arduous effort to get these clinics up and running, but what we witnessed on this trip was the fruits of many, many years of labor finally coming to full fruition,” Dr. Garibyan says.

Dr. Garibyan – a native of Armenia who immigrated to the U.S. at age 12 – began this effort in 2013 with the vision of improving the standard of care for Armenian patients with vascular birthmarks and scars. With the support and guidance of Dr. Anderson, they have been helping patients by bringing the necessary laser technology to Armenia and training local doctors to use the technology to erase birthmarks and improve scars without invasive surgeries.

Two Laser Clinics Established

The team has now successfully set up laser clinics at both the Arabkir Children’s Hospital and the Armenian American Wellness Center after donations of five lasers from the Candela Laser Corporation and from Quanta Lasers.

“The true outcomes of the treatments were evident from patient testimonials.”

“This was indeed the best and the most rewarding trip to Armenia since 2013, as we finally saw results and outcomes in addition to full buy-in from the patients, doctors and administrators,” says Dr. Anderson. “The true outcomes of the treatments were evident from patient testimonials.”

This year, the Wellman team was accompanied by colleagues Branko Bojovic, MD, chief of Plastic, Reconstructive and Laser Surgery at Shriners Hospital for Children and a Plastic Surgery attending at Mass General, and Arman Serebrakian, MD, a Harvard Plastic Surgery resident from Armenia – who trained local surgeons to surgically manage scars with z-plasties, a technique used to improve the appearance of scars. Patients with contracture scars were, for the first time, able to get laser and z-plasty treatments at one time while under general anesthesia.

“To give patients confidence and a better chance in life by improving their scars and birthmark appearance is truly a rewarding and fulfilling accomplishment that I am very proud of,” says Dr. Garibyan.

In order to accomplish its mission of establishing fully functioning and sustainable medical laser clinics in Armenia, the team has now created a nonprofit organization called the Face of Angel.

This story was first published in MGH Hotline, a publication for employees and staff of Mass General.