Marietta Khurshudyan (MPH ’05): A Woman of the 21st Century5 min read
Marietta Khurshudyan (MPH ’05), an alumna of the American University of Armenia (AUA), has held various positions and assumed many roles in her career: lecturer, producer of medical TV shows, expert at the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia, TV host of the recently launched Hogebanali program. Khurshudyan is a 21st-century professional, a loving wife and a mother of two.
The Need For a Systemic Change
Her educational journey started in the field of clinical psychology. For about a year after graduating from the University of Practical Psychology and Sociology, she was eagerly applying to different healthcare institutions where she thought clinical psychologists would be needed.
“Failing to find a job in my field, I realized that the reason was not the lack of interest or need in my profession, but the imperative to make a deeper and more profound change in the system. Having discerned that critical gap and earnest to become a changemaker, I applied to AUA. Back then I didn’t even realize that I was thinking from a public health perspective,” Khurshudyan notes. “I was asked whether I was going to work with ‘mad’ people, whether I could read other people’s minds or predict the future by the coffee grounds. I was determined to change that attitude. Armenia needed a change in the system, a change that would also include psychoeducation.”
Khurshudyan credits the education she received at the AUA Master of Public Health (MPH) program for the changes, big or small, she was able to realize in various fields. In 2008, she started working in the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia first as an expert for the Standing Committee on Health, Maternity and Childhood Issues, and since 2016, as an expert for the Standing Committee on Health Care and Social Affairs. Khurshudyan was able to also make systemic changes in the public health sector in her capacity as member of the Executive Board and later as the executive director of the Armenian Psychiatric Association.
“The AUA education is not just about gaining knowledge. The University helps you get in the right mindset, think through issues critically and approach them with a problem-solving demeanor. Such skills helped me analyze my past journey and guided me through future challenges,” Khurshudyan says. “When people ask me whether I would recommend applying to AUA, I always respond that if they want to learn critical thinking, if they know exactly what they want to do with their lives, or even if they are still in search for the right field to put knowledge into practice, AUA is the right place.”
Current Systemic Healthcare Initiatives
In 2018, Khurshudyan got engaged in the World Health Organization (WHO) Quality Rights project, an initiative that involved collaboration with Italy, Lebanon, and Ghana. The initiative aims to change people’s mindset about mental health and to promote the rights of people with mental and intellectual disabilities. The beneficiaries are both the mental health service users, their family members as well as mental health professionals and human rights defenders.
“We managed to organize face-to-face training sessions with about 100 mental health professionals and service users. Currently, 90 professionals and other people interested in mental health and human rights are taking the online course. We have also developed the Armenian version of the WHO platform designed for online training that will hopefully be available by fall 2021,” Khurshudyan proudly states.
Another project Khurshudyan is currently involved in, as an expert for the National Assembly and the executive director of the Armenian Psychiatric Association, is the legitimation of psychologists’ practice in Armenia. Nowadays, psychologists are not required to have a license to practice and can work even without having any particular specialization in the field. The eligibility criteria are not established, so anyone who wants to work as a psychologist can do so independently. “People mistakenly believe that what psychologists do is just converse with their clients, that there is nothing complicated about it. But frequently it is more difficult than surgery — if a surgeon is able to visualize an incision and knows that cutting a vein will lead to bleeding, it is not that straightforward for a psychologist to see the threads they would penetrate in one’s mind and the impact they would have on their life five or ten years later.”
From the initial days of the devastating Artsakh War in fall 2020, the Armenian Psychiatric Association has put much effort into providing psychological assistance to all those affected by the war. Around 200 psychologists joined forces to help, all on a voluntary basis. In March 2021, for the first time in the history of the Republic of Armenia, the state decided to allocate funds for comprehensive psychological support of several target groups that include former POWs; family members of POWs and missing persons; people injured or disabled in the hostilities and their family members; family members of fallen servicemen or civilians; others involved in defense, including mobilization, conscripts and volunteers; as well as displaced people and ancillary participants. This is a major step in the direction of assisting those affected and improving the mental health of society overall through the broader accessibility of psychological services in Armenia.
Hogebanali TV Show by Luys Production — A Dream Come True
“December 2020, nine months of COVID-19 lockdown, defeat in the Artsakh War, depressive mood all around… I knew I needed to do something,” Kurshudyan took action to provide psychoeducation services, to give those affected the necessary tools to self-cure, to get better.
Together with her friend Hrachya Ghukasyan, the founder of Luys Production, which was launched amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, she initiated the Hogebanali TV show — key to one’s mental space. Khurshudyan is both the producer, scriptwriter and TV host of the show that gets 1,000 to 1,500 daily views, an impressive viewing audience for an hour-long program in Armenia.
“We decide on the topics for the show together with our team of individuals from different backgrounds. I appreciate the devotion of our team members who volunteer their time and effort for the success of the show,” notes Khurshudyan. “All the programs created by Luys Production are meant to help people overcome the personal and collective setbacks created by the pandemic and the war through a light, positive, and apolitical content.”
The Role of a Woman in the 21st Century
A lecturer, producer of medical TV shows, expert at the National Assembly, TV host, a loving wife and mother — Khurshudyan notes that the key to succeeding in all of these roles is, first and foremost, love: “You are bound to succeed in anything you do with love and devotion.” But, she also underscores the benefits she has derived from the compassion and support of her network of family members, colleagues, and employers.
“A woman is multifunctional by nature. Our role has been crucial from an evolutionary perspective. Throughout times, women have had the distinct function of giving birth to new generations and taking responsibility for their care. A woman can have children of different ages and be able to focus on their different care needs. A woman is able to perform household duties, take on job responsibilities, and all the while manage to always look good,” says Khurshudyan. “Multifunctionality, I believe, is the most distinguishing characteristic of a woman in the 21st century. Today, it is impossible to concentrate all your efforts on just one task and think that you have accomplished your life goals.”
Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.