trek2share

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San Diego Surgical Team Changes Face of Patient Care Overseas

“Angels from heaven” is how patients described Anna Kulidjian, MD, professor with UC San Diego School of Medicine, and her team after they successfully performed 24 hip replacement surgeries during a trip to the mountainous region of Armenia, a place in desperate need of surgical care.

The week long medical journey was part of a rare humanitarian effort among health care organizations, orthopedic surgeons and donors in San Diego and Armenia.

“It was a year-long effort to select eligible patients who needed surgery but didn’t have the financial means or access to specialized surgeons.   Most patients were wheel-chair bound and living in villages with no communication to the outside world,” said Kulidjian, orthopedic surgeon at UC San Diego Health System.

Armenia has a 20 percent infection rate and 30 percent dislocation rate with joint replacement surgeries.  Kulidjian and her team worked around the clock to teach the Armenian surgeons techniques in a variety of areas, including device placement, physical therapy, anesthesia and operating room safety for sterilization.

“My team was stunned at the need for education and lack of surgical equipment in Armenia,” said Kulidjian.  “I was born in Armenia, so this experience touched me both professionally and personally.  It was challenging emotionally and physically, and I realized what a privilege it was to have been educated in the United States.   I kissed the ground when I landed on American soil.”

Patients who thought they would never walk again are now standing and functioning in a way they never dreamed possible.

“One of the patients kept kissing the hand of a San Diego surgeon.   It was incredibly rewarding to see how gracious these men and women were after the years of suffering they endured,” said Kulidjian. 

This was also a monumental project for the San Diego surgeons who worked as a strong team and learned from each other during difficult circumstances.

“This experience changed the lives of all involved.   We went back to our organizations with new perspectives, a higher confidence level in dealing with complications and a better appreciation for orthopedic surgery practiced around the world.”  

The trip also included a hike with the entire team to the top of Armenia’s Mount Aragrats - the highest peak in the country at 13, 419 feet.   The hike was part of a fundraising effort to raise money for items such as pain medication, tools and devices used during joint replacement surgeries.

“Efforts like this can truly change the course of health care.  It was a successful mission that has given both the Armenian surgeons and patients more power and opportunity for a better future,” said Kulidjian. “We look forward to returning again.”

Once again, orthopedic surgeon Anna Kulidjian, MD, is participating in a mountain hike to bring surgical care to remote villages. Last year, it was Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest walkable mountain, in an effort to bring health care to the Maasai. It was a successful trip and Trek2Share was able to raise enough money to buy the Maasai an ambulance.

This year she’s hiking Mount Aragac in Armenia to provide free joint replacements to patients who have lost their mobility, yet cannot afford to see a doctor. Learn more about Kulidjian’s mission and follow her progress here: Trek2Share.org

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Through Trek2Share, orthopedic surgeon Anna Kulidjian, MD, participates in mountain hikes to bring much needed surgical care to remote villages. Last year, it was Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest walkable mountain, to bring health care to the Maasai. It was a successful trip and Trek2Share was able to raise enough money to buy the Maasai an ambulance. Or, an “Anna”-bulance.

Here’s an email Kulidjian received as a thank you for her work from the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT):

Dear Anna,
On behalf of the Kuku community and MWCT, I want to thank you for making the health vehicle a reality.  Attached are pictures of the vehicle, and one of the community meetings we held to introduce the vehicle.  We have a name for all our cars, as a reflection of how important vehicles are for us to get around to the most remote areas to conduct all our programs.  This vehicle that we have called “Anna” has a special significance as it will carry patients to the district hospital for life-threatening conditions and will also enable us to do medical outreaches to remote areas not served by existing health facilities.  In essence, this vehicle is helping those that need help the most and it is with deep gratitude that we say thank you for helping the community in such a significant way.

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Orthopedic surgeon Anna Kulidjian, MD, recently participated in a mountain hike to bring surgical care to remote villages. Last year, it was Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest walkable mountain, in an effort to bring health care to the Maasai. It was a successful trip and Trek2Share was able to raise enough money to buy the Maasai an ambulance.

This year she, along with a team of surgeons from San Diego, journeyed to Mount Aragac in Armenia to provide free joint replacements to patients who have lost their mobility, yet cannot afford to see a doctor.

The most memorable moment. This is the future of Africa, the future we need to protect and help.

UC San Diego Health System Orthopedic Surgeon, Anna Kulidjian, is hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro to help a West African tribe stay healthy and protect the land it lives on. Check out more of her photos of this incredible journey.