In December of 2016, the Garo Meghrigian Institute for Preventive Ophthalmology (Meghrigian Institute) embarked on a new project to provide eye care to diabetic patients in the Tavush province of Armenia. The project was dedicated to the late Gloria Meghrigian, wife of Garo Meghrigian, who passed in 2016. In lieu of flowers, Ms. Meghrigian’s daughter, Anahid Boulanikian, asked friends and family to donate to her parent’s legacy, the American University of Armenia’s Meghrigian Institute. The $1,810 gifted in memoriam allowed the project to be expanded past the initial towns of Dilijan, Ijevan, Berd and Noyemberyan to the border villages of Voskevan, Ptghavan, Koghb, Berdavan, Haghtanak, Bagratashen, Voskepar, Debetavan, Koti and Baghanis.
Concluded in March 2017, the project successfully provided free ophthalmic examinations and eyeglasses to diabetic patients with restricted access to ophthalmic services and provided education regarding diabetes management and diabetic retinopathy prevention. In addition to conducting screenings, the Meghrigian Institute provided to the participants informational brochures and booklets that included valuable information on diabetes management and complications, including diabetic retinopathy and its prevention.
During the course of this project, 449 diabetics were screened: 109 from Dilijan, 167 from Ijevan, 92 from Noyemberyan and 81 from Berd and adjacent villages. Those served ranged in age from nineteen to eighty-six years old, the majority of which being in their early 60’s. Over half of those served were women and the majority of those served were from families who categorized their standard of living as below average.
Of those screened, it was found that patients had been suffering from diabetes for about seven years, on average. Diabetic retinopathy was detected in 18.7% of patients, and it was proliferative in 3.6% of patients. The prevalence of refractive errors, cataract, macular degeneration and glaucoma in the group was 77.7%, 51.2%, 11.8% and 3.8%, respectively. The prevalence of visual impairment was 9.0% in the better eye with best possible correction. Almost 1.3% of the patients screened were blind.
In 1999, in memory of his daughter, Christine Hripsime, philanthropist Garo Meghrigian of Los Angeles set on a mission to prevent avoidable blindness in Armenia. With a generous gift from the Meghrigian family, the Garo Meghrigian Institute for Preventive Ophthalmology (Meghrigian Institute) was established within the Zvart Avedisian Onanian Center for Health Services Research and Development (CHSR) at AUA’s Gerald and Patricia Turpanjian School of Public Health. The Meghrigian Institute’s mission is to prevent avoidable blindness in Armenia.
The AUA Gerald and Patricia Turpanjian School of Public Health works actively to improve population health and health services in Armenia and the region through interdisciplinary education and development of public health professionals to be leaders in public health, health services research and evaluation, and health care delivery and management.