How did the project start?
The history of the "Armenian-American Wellness Center" foundation dates back to the 1990s. 23 years ago, the Armenian-American Cultural Association, through the hard efforts of Rita Balian, undertook decisive steps to mitigate the devastating impact that breast cancer was having on the women of Armenia.
It was decided that instead of bringing medical equipment, it would be more beneficial to establish a Center which could become a learning, teaching and healthcare Center for not only students and residents of the Yerevan State Medical University and local physicians but also for the entire population with a special focus on women.
Lack of awareness
At that time, very few people in Armenia realized and understood the importance of mammography screening in saving the lives of women. However, breast cancer had grown to alarming proportions in Armenia, taking the lives of thousands of women away. Unfortunately, there was a tendency of increasing breast cancer incidence in younger women. That health challenge inspired to establish the Wellness Center on April 28th, 1997, which became reality due to Rita Balian's patriotic vision and the persistent efforts of Hranush Hakobyan.
The Government of Armenia, in recognition of the importance of the project, donated the building to AAWC, through a special presidential decree, in support to expand medical services. The extensive renovation work was immediately started.
Soon afterward, medical equipment, brought from the US, was installed on the first floor of the building, and medical specialists from the USA arrived in Armenia to select and train the local medical team. Then, even the founders never could have imagined how far-reaching project with the “snowball” effect they had initiated which would save thousands of lives.
The project also introduced a number of important approaches, most unusual at that time, a novelty in Armenia, such as health walks, work management by western standards, medical outreach missions and advanced medical innovations and cutting-edge technology.
An Important initiative that brought together an army of supporters
The success of the Center, in its first years of operation, drew the attention of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) leaders of the US Embassy in Armenia, who contacted Rita Balian and offered their partnership in this work.
In 2002, the Armenian Government, through a Presidential decree, donated the entire building to the Center. Due to the hard efforts of the talented architect Vartkes Balian, Mrs. Rita Balian's husband, to design, renovate and re-build an old building into an advance medical facility, as well as with partial USAID-ASHA funding, within a few years a seismically reinforce building was reconstructed, renovated, expanded that met all American standards but used Armenian architectural designs.
The number of visitors is increasing year by year ...
Currently, Daily 180-220 patients visit the Center in contrast to the first years of the Center, when the visiting patients are quite a few. To date, the center has saved 12,436 women lives. Over 23 years of activity, the AAWC has provided 672,556 high-quality medical services. Since its establishment, 329,521 breast screening has been provided and 16,704 breast cancer incidence has been detected. 1,829 men patients underwent breast screening at the Center, 78 of which with a breast cancer diagnosis.
AAWC is equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment and cutting-edge technology
Due to Mrs. Rita Balian’s hard efforts, the Center is the only Medical Facility in the entire region equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment. One of the most significant and exciting accomplishments was the acquisition and installation of three Hologic Selenia 3Dimension Mammography System s which provide an opportunity to magnify the formations up to 1000 times making it possible to study it with millimeter accuracy. This is an important pre-condition for effective treatment. This unique Center, equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment and cutting-edge technology, provides the public an opportunity to take advantage of the latest innovations in the medical world.
The center is unique not only in our Republic but also in the region: it has visitors from Georgia, Russia, Ukraine and other foreign countries. The foreign citizens working in embassies and international organizations in Armenia also visit the wellness center for their annual check-ups.
Medical Outreach mission in Armenia and In Artsakh
To extend modern screening services to Armenians in rural areas with limited transportation to Yerevan, the Wellness Center organizes monthly medical outreach missions using portable ultrasound equipment and provides free-of-charge screenings.
To date, 396 medical outreach missions have been conducted for the vulnerable population in 94 remote towns and villages throughout Armenia, including 8 times in Artsakh, during which 25,354 patients have been screened.