By Judith Lee

In a timeline that stretches back to 1974, members of Armenian Medical International Committee (AMIC) will likely look upon 2012 as a seminal year when it regrouped, revitalized, and recommitted to its mission to foster cooperation among all Armenian health care providers.
The changes started at the top, with a new president, Jerry Manoukian, MD, of San Francisco, Calif., who brings a fresh perspective to AMIC’s mission.
“One of AMIC’s priorities will be to improve the Diasporan experience of Armenian healthcare collaboration. It must be welcoming, comfortable and fun,” Dr. Manoukian noted shortly after he was elected president in April.
Representatives of AMIC’s member organizations convened in New York to discuss AMIC’s future direction, and those in attendance said they support Dr. Manoukian and the revitalized organization.
“This is such a significant moment, it’s extraordinary. We are thankful to Avedis Bogosyan, MD, AMIC’s immediate past president, for his wise stewardship that enabled this meeting to succeed. At one meeting, AMIC elected a new president, formed new committees, and identified six future leaders,” said Lawrence V. Najarian, MD, president of Armenian American Healthcare Providers Organization (AAHPO).
Vicken Sepilian, MD, president of the Armenian American Medical Society (AAMS) said he feels gratified that AMIC will continue to move forward as the “organizer of organizations.”
“AMIC has great contacts within its member organizations, and a strong history of collaboration. AMIC can ensure that the organizations can leverage from each other,” said Dr. Sepilian.
Rosine Der-Tavitian, MSN, MPH, president of the Armenian American Nurses Association (AANA) and a faculty member at California State University Northridge, said she is most excited about AMIC’s resolve to connect with younger health care professionals.
“I learned as an educator that when we reach out to youth, they will bring their gifts to us. This is needed to ensure that the Armenian health care collaboration continues. AMIC must bring the new generation to the podium,” she said.
Seda Boghossian-Tighe, PhD, president of Armenian Medical Association-Great Britain (AMA-GB) also is focused on the next generation: “AMIC links us globally, and that in itself provides close communication and friendship of Armenian health professionals.  This can help us nurture the next Armenian generation to grow and inherit our wealthy and healthy culture, our merits and our community values.”
A respected past
The idea of an international body connecting Armenian health care professionals was originally proposed in 1973 in Beirut during the first Armenian Medical World Congress. Eleven years later, in Montreal, at the closing of the third Armenian Medical World Congress, a small committee was formed to study AMIC’s feasibility.
In May 1990, representatives from France, the U.S.A. and Canada gathered in Montreal to lay the foundation of the Armenian Medical International Committee or ”Comité International Médical Arménien”.
AMIC has been associated with the Armenian Medical World Congress that was held first in Beirut in 1974, and then from 1980 on, held in Venice, Montreal, Los Angeles, Paris, Boston, Lyon, Toronto, San Francisco and New York.
“AMIC was formed to connect organizations that work to improve health care for Armenians. The original focus was to ensure that organizations could pool their knowledge and work more effectively together,” noted Dr. Bogosyan.
Aida Boudjikanian, AMIC secretary, has maintained an extensive e-mail list of members and friends of AMIC, who are familiar with the periodic “Info-Flash” reports that she sends. The communications program reaches out to 19 member organizations in Australia, Canada, Austria, Russia, Germany, England, France, Switzerland, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Argentina, Uruguay and the U.S.
Now, however, it’s time for AMIC to extend its reach even further, Dr. Manoukian said.
Friend & Follow AMIC
“The first task is to explore social media and dream about how we can keep in better touch with each other. Wouldn’t it be amazing to recall the names and faces of Congress attendees we’ve already ‘met’ on Facebook? This could be done in anticipation of upcoming Congress, perhaps as part of the registration process,” Dr. Manoukian explained.
He’s referring to another high priority for AMIC, which is the Armenian Medical World Congress (AMWC2013) to be held next July in Los Angeles, Calif. AAMS is hosting the event, and has many exciting plans for the scientific meeting at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel and Spa.
Dr. Sepilian noted that renowned speakers are coming from around the world, including a contingent from South America. The social plans are top drawer, including a gala at the Kodak Theater (where the Oscars are held) with Wolfgang Puck as the caterer.
The theme of the Congress is “United for a Health Future,” which seems like the right message for the time.
“It exemplifies what we do – Armenian health care professionals come together to exchange medical knowledge and philanthropic experience, all to improve the health of patients, our community, and our organizations,” Dr. Sepilian said.
Dr. Manoukian said he is determined to develop a strong emotional connection among all those who travel to the 2013 Congress.
“After the 2013 Congress, we might remember some of the scientific material we learned. But we will all remember how we felt, whether the experience was magic and spectacular.  AMIC must reach individuals, groups, cities and countries in a personal way. We must generate a sense of community and collaboration that gives our members a ‘can’t wait’ feeling as the Congress approaches,” Dr. Manoukian said.
AMIC member organizations in California share his enthusiasm for social media and new technology to create a “buzz” about the event.
“We have an active medical society (AAMS) with visionary leaders. They are already on YouTube. We will reach more people this way. We need to have a webcam at the Congress to broadcast to those who cannot attend. Today, this is the way to reach people and have impact,” noted Ms. Der-Tavitian.
Dr. Najarian agreed wholeheartedly and mentioned that AAHPO (greater New York area) has its own YouTube channel and uses Twitter and Facebook regularly to connect with the Armenian community.
“AAHPO reaches out to meet members and other Armenians where they are actively communicating today. From email combined with social media, we’ve increased our membership and our member participation, as well as the community’s interest in our health care events,” Dr. Najarian said.
And there’s more
Along with social media outreach, Dr. Manoukian pointed out other priorities: “AMIC has been an organization of organizations, and has not included individuals as dues-paying members. But we have individuals without formal organizations, whose participation is welcomed and prized. We will develop policy to formalize this type of participation.”
That’s music to the ears of Rafi Avitsian, MD who resides in Ohio.
“I have tried to establish an organization here without success. Yet I am committed to AMIC’s purpose, and make every effort to attend the Congresses and lecture,” he noted.
Dr. Avitsian noted that AMIC is needed more than ever because Armenia’s health care needs have changed.
“What are the current health care needs, and what organizations can best meet them? Perhaps members from one organization can help with another organization’s project. We need a good, ongoing update for all AMIC members,” said Dr. Avitsian.
Dr. Manoukian promised to reach out globally to bring more organizations in, particularly from South America.
“Shall we make some attempt to incorporate Spanish or Portuguese into our communications leading up to and during the 2013 Congress? We need to make the Congress multi-lingual from the get-go,” he asserted.
Dr. Manoukian’s thoughts circled back to the need for AMIC to connect with the new generation of health care providers: “Let’s cultivate and groom our medical and premedical students.  They will use, benefit from and expand our use of social media.  How do we sustain the interest of an Armenian student from Colorado attending medical school in Washington State? This is the future of AMIC and the Armenian community.”
Captions:
[AMIC leaders] These Armenian health care leaders came from around the world to fine-tune the future of Armenian Medical International Committee (AMIC). From left:  Jerry Manoukian, MD, Vicken Sepilian, MD,  Lawrence Najarian, MD, Jean-Pierre Basmadjian, MD, Avedis Bogosyan, MD, Serge Simonian, MD.
[AMIC leaders2] The new president of Armenian Medical International Committee (AMIC), Jerry Manoukian, MD, (far left) is congratulated by outgoing president Avedis Bogosyan, MD (far right). At center are Vicken Sepilian, MD, president of AAMA, and Lawrence Najarian, MD, president of AAHPO.

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