Armenians Begin a New Era in Moscow
Armenians Begin a New Era in Moscow

Mending Lives

Half a Century of Work and Inventions Mark Career of Armenian Bone Trauma Surgeon

When David Muradian studied medicine in Yerevan a decade ago, little did he think that the legendary professor referred to in nearly all orthopedic surgery-related textbooks would one day be his mentor in a Moscow clinic.

The graduate of the Yerevan State Medical University, who moved to the Russian capital five years ago, joined the clinic of noted professor Oganes Oganesian after two years of internship as resident surgeon.

"Working with him was like joining Maestro Vladimir Spivakov's orchestra for a violinist who just graduated from the conservatory," says Muradian, a 28-year-old trauma specialist and orthopedist (referring to the beloved Russian conductor).

Muradian is now one of five Armenian doctors among 40 working at the Clinic of Orthopedic Surgery for Adults (the Nikolay Priorov Central Institute of Trauma and Orthopedics). The clinic has been led for several decades by the revered Armenian surgeon, who came to pursue a career in medicine in Moscow when he was about Muradian's age (and is also an alumnus of Yerevan State). Now Oganesian is one of the leading orthopedic surgeons of Russia.

Oganesian, a native of Batumi, Georgia, grew up in the village of Oshakan in the Aragatsotn province of Armenia. The village is famous among Armenians as the final resting place of St. Mesrop Mashtots, the fifth-century creator of the Armenian alphabet. Oganesian remembers how he would visit the church and the great Armenian's grave every time before a school exam, which he says must have given him a "spiritual charge" that still lasts.

Oganesian, 77, is a member of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, and a consultant to the Head Medical Department of the Russian President. He is a three-time laureate of the USSR and Russian Federation State Prizes (the last was awarded to him in 1999 and handed personally by President Vladimir Putin). He is also professor at the Moscow Medical Academy and a member of international academies.

Oganesian is also highly regarded as the inventor of devices used in the treatment of orthopedic injuries or surgeries. Among his inventions are apparatus, named after him, designed for externally fixing bones in place while tissues grow to hold them after trauma.

In orthopedic surgery specialists faced a dilemma – after surgery, joints need rest, but at the same time motion is necessary so that they can recover their normal function. A device called "hinged distraction apparatus" invented by Oganesian helps solve the problem. Specialists say these widely used apparatus have helped countless patients. Also, Oganesian has traveled abroad extensively to give lectures and perform surgeries. Last year he performed 20 surgeries in Iran.

Oganesian himself disdains praise, but says he is satisfied with his achievements as a scientist and practitioner.

He moved to Moscow in 1961 and soon achieved success as an orthopedic surgeon. He worked for many years side by side with the well-known Soviet trauma specialist Mstislav Volkov. Now he has several thousand surgeries behind him, surgeries that helped people have better mobility and better lives.

Even now, Oganesian performs two or three surgeries a month at his clinic where about  35-40 doctors perform up to 1,000 surgeries a year. The inpatient clinic can treat 40 at a time, while the larger institute is designed to tend to up to 400. While medicine is costly, Oganesian says a majority of patients get treatment in the clinic for free, while for others medical treatment is also affordable.

Despite passing retirement age, Oganesian says "surgeons do not retire."  Besides, he says, "The older you are, the more experience you have and you must share it with others."

Oganesian is a frequent visitor to his motherland and has strong links with Armenia as one of several prominent Armenian doctors in Moscow. However, he still regrets the worst of occasions on which his home country required his services.

Oganesian remembers sorrowfully how he learned the news on December 7, 1988 of the Spitak earthquake that killed about 25,000 and crippled many more. Oganesian was on a trip to New York, as the only Armenian in a Soviet delegation off to attend a conference. He remembers how, learning of the disaster in his homeland, he rushed to use his professional ties with colleagues in American clinics to organize professional help from foreign doctors for victims of the disaster. He brought a group of well-known trauma specialists to Moscow where patients were taken for treatment. Oganesian himself organized treatment and therapy for more than 300 severe cases from Spitak and Leninakan (now Gyumri) at his clinic in Moscow.

"The Institute was a very hot place at that time. Relatives of our patients would burst into the surgery theaters and interfere with our work. I had to perform many surgeries during those days," says Oganesian, remembering the days and weeks that followed the tragedy in northern Armenia.

Oganesian says his specialty is becoming one of the most required branches of medicine nowadays.

"This is because of rising crime, local wars, terror attacks, road accidents, increased industrial hazards, and that's why traumatology is becoming more and more required all around the world," says Oganesian (who spoke to AGBU only days before the twin suicide bombings in the Moscow subway on March 29 that killed at least 40, of which one was Armenian, and injuring dozens, including two Armenians).

Oganesian, whose clinic is among Moscow's prestigious, also speaks with high regard about the state of orthopedic surgery in Armenia, where he has close professional ties.

He says he is proud to be an Armenian and proudly participates in the life of the Armenian community, which he said emerged as such only two decades ago. "We, the local Armenians [in Moscow], felt the need of a community only after the breakup of the Soviet Union, when Armenia became independent," he says.

Oganesian faithfully follows news from Armenia and related to Armenia and the Diaspora. He singles out the developments with the passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution by the Swedish parliament and the vote of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Genocide resolution.

"Armenians here are different. We were born and raised in different places, but all rejoice at things that are common to all," he says. "I can say that Armenians who live outside Armenia feel even more patriotic."

Oganesian has a daughter, 43, and two granddaughters, 17 and 12 years old. He says that the unfortunate part of staying away from the homeland is that many in the second and third generations forget the language. He mentions with pride, though, that both his granddaughters attend the Armenian Apostolic Church's Sons of Armenia school, "to catch up on what they've missed."

Originally published in the May 2010 ​issue of AGBU Magazine. Archived content may appear distorted on your screen. end character

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