SoCal doctors embark on medical mission to heal in Armenia

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE, Calif. (KABC) -- Every year, local doctors, dentists and nurses journey to Armenia to help those in critical need of care. This is the ninth trip, but this year's mission will take on new meaning.

Every piece of equipment is needed. When Dr. Albert Phillips and his wife Susan set up their makeshift medical clinic in the Lori Province of Armenia, throngs of patients will be waiting for them.

"To this day, the area is still suffering economically in a lot of ways," said Dr. Phillips, an OB-GYN. A 1988 earthquake killed 25,000 people in the area.

The couple, working with the Armenian Missionary Association of America, started going on these overseas trips in 2008.

Thirty-seven other Armenian-American doctors, dentists, nurses and other caregivers will travel with enough medicine to supply patients for up to a year.

"You look into the faces and they could be your mother, grandmother, child and you can relate to them that way," Susan said.

"We have helped people with certain conditions that doctors in Armenia couldn't diagnose," Dr. Phillips said.

And this year for the first time, doctors are going to be treating Armenian refugees from Syria. The refugees have been on the run and probably haven't seen a doctor for a long time.

"In the four-and-a-half days which we are working, we will see close to 1,000 patients," Dr. Phillips said.

Pews in a church turn into exam areas. Sunday school classrooms become fully operable laboratories.

Many in Armenia live a harsh life, but Dr. Phillips said his group provides benefits beyond medical care. "We try to give them hope, not just for today, but forever," he said.

This mission is so inspiring that people are waiting in line to go next year.

"If you have a love for people and love to serve and use your talents then you need to come," Susan said. "You will never be the same. It changes your life in a radical way."
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