Healing Words Seminar Bridges Public Health and Literature

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YEREVAN – On June 26, 2013, the American University of Armenia (AUA)’s School of Public Health (SPH) hosted a bilingual poetry reading in AUA’s Akian Art Gallery dedicated to the healing power of words, as part of its Public Health Seminar series. The reading, organized by Shushan Avagyan of the Certificate in Translation (CTR) program, featured AUA SPH Fulbright Scholar Dr. Dana Walrath and poet Marine Petrossian. SPH Associate Dean Dr. Varduhi Petrosyan noted in her opening remarks, “Dana Walrath’s presence in our program has made the Public Health Seminar Series more creative and interdisciplinary, and I am happy for this opportunity to bridge public health and literature.”

Dr. Walrath began the reading with a series of poems in English language from her forthcoming verse novel, Like Water on Stone (Random House/Delacorte 2014). The novel is set during the Armenian genocide and guides the audience through the intersections of traumatic memory, survival, and the language of poetry. Dr. Walrath explained, “Healing is all about creating shared social meaning. This lets us move on. As the proverb goes, ‘Where the needle passes, the thread passes also.’ I believe that words create those threads.”

Petrossian continued the event with readings in Armenian language from her most recent book, Salat Krakotsnerov (Salad with Shots, Actual Arvest 2011), followed by a selection of new poems dealing with the themes of urban life, travel, cancer, and recovery. “What matters in the end is our ability to change the quality of life through poetry. If my poems can do that, then I have succeeded,” said Petrossian.

Dr. Walrath, a medical anthropologist, writer, and artist, is a Fulbright Scholar in the AUA School of Public Health. She is currently working on a project that builds on her award-winning graphic memoir series Aliceheimer’s about life with her mother, Alice, before and during her experience with Alzheimer’s disease. Marine Petrossian is a contemporary Armenian poet known for her outspoken literary work, who has been recognized in Yerevan for her accomplishments.

The two poets will continue their collaboration in the coming months and plan to organize another reading in October 2013, involving the students from the Certificate in Translation program. Avagyan explains, “We have been talking with the Provost about establishing a series of regular cultural events in the Akian Art Gallery, which will serve the University’s mission to discover and disseminate knowledge, produce creative work, and promote a culture of broad inquiry throughout and beyond the AUA community.”

Recordings of the event can be viewed here.


SPH Associate Dean Dr. Varduhi Petrosyan and Shushan Avagyan of the CTR program offering their welcoming remarks to the audience

Dr. Dana Walrath reading from her forthcoming verse novel, Like Water on Stone

Poet Marine Petrossian reading from her most recent book, Salat Krakotsnerov

Poet Marine Petrossian and Dr. Dana Walrath responding to questions from the audience


The AUA School of Public Health works actively to improve the health of the populace and health services in Armenia and the region through interdisciplinary education and development of public health professionals and others to be leaders in public health, health services research and evaluation, and health care delivery and management.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia and affiliated with the University of California. AUA provides a global education in Armenia and the region, offering high-quality, graduate and undergraduate studies, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting public service and democratic values.

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