YEREVAN, Armenia – Over the past ten years, Dr. Bilezikian, Professor of Medicine and Vice-Chair for International Education and Research at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, has organized annual symposiums designed to provide doctors and other health care professionals with the most up-to-date information about osteoporosis. The meetings have grown enormously, beginning as a small conference ten years ago with about 100 participants to the meeting on October 6 that virtually filled the Large Auditorium of the American University of Armenia (AUA).
Professor Varduhi Petrosyan, Dean of the School of Public Health at AUA, was instrumental in helping to facilitate and ensure the success of the Symposium. The conference drew over 600 attendees including health providers from Artsakh and 14 countries from Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The symposium was registered as a certifiable Continuing Medical Educational event. Professor Cyrus Cooper from the Oxford University (UK) and President-elect of the International Osteoporosis Foundation delivered the key note speech. His lecture focused on the epidemiology of osteoporosis. Other topics included the ‘Armenian Plate’ by Dr. Kim Hekimian, and whether it is nutritionally adequate to help prevent osteoporosis. New and controversial topics in the diagnosis and management of Osteoporosis were also covered.
Individual workshops emphasized issues of skeletal health as they relate to prevention of osteoporosis; the perimenopausal women; the role of glucocorticoids as a cause of osteoporosis; diabetes and obesity in skeletal health. The symposium also addressed the acquisition of bone densitometry in Armenia. The bone densitometer is a non-invasive and safe means by which osteoporosis can be diagnosed. While the bone densitometer is used as a diagnostic gold standard, the instruments are expensive. Through Dr. Bilezikian’s efforts over the past ten years, he has delivered nine bone densitometers to hospitals and medical clinics not only in Yerevan but also in Gyumri and Stepanakert (Artsakh). This year, two more bone densitometers will be placed in Vanadzor and Kapan. Ten years ago Armenia was at the bottom in the availability of bone densitometry, it is now above the mean among all the countries in the world. The donation of these bone densitometers by the Hologic Corporation (USA) is gratefully acknowledged. These symposia, led by Dr. Bilezikian, are designed to complement this diagnostic capability to measure bone density with an educational program that imparts cutting-edge knowledge to all attendees. The event was covered widely by the media in Armenia:
The concentration of key programs on osteoporosis in Armenia speaks volumes to the progress that has been made over the past ten years in calling attention to the world wide problem on osteoporosis and in establishing Armenia as a center of the mission to publicize and disseminate key information both locally and internationally. Dr. Bilezikian has brought not only the means by which osteoporosis can be diagnosed in Armenia but he has also brought with him, year after year, a faculty that can bring new information to doctors and other health care professionals. Increasingly, the faculty consists of physicians from Armenia. For the first time, Armenia has served as host for a key international summit on osteoporosis, helping to establish the country’s role as a force for education and dialogue among the nations of Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
Drs. Bilezikian and Babalyan gratefully acknowledge support received from the Hirair and Anna Hovnanian Foundation, the Hologic Corporation, the JHM Foundation, The International Osteoporosis Foundation, the Fund for Armenian Relief, the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University and the American University of Armenia School of Public Health.