One year ago we introduced you to Eduard, a 15-year-old boy in Stepanakert, the capital of the autonomous region Artsakh, near Armenia. He had been blind for a few weeks, taking antibiotics that did not seem to be working. When the EyePACS team arrived in Armenia to screen diabetes patients for retinopathy and establish an ongoing screening program there, Eduard’s condition was correctly diagnosed by EyePACS’ chief medical officer Dr. George Bresnick, MD, and Armenian-American internist Marta Nalbandyan, using digital retinal images followed up with lab tests. The team arranged for proper anti-viral treatment at a hospital in Yeravan, Armenia.
Just a few weeks ago the EyePACS team traveled back to Armenia, one year later, as part of the Fresno (CA) Medical Mission to Armenia and Artsakh, organized by Honorary Consul of Armenia, Baron Berj Apkarian. Funded in part by the generosity of Dr. Kuldip Thusu of Dinuba, California, the team brought an additional digital retinal camera to the area to add to the four they had provided one year prior.
And they checked on Eduard. They were delighted to find that, with the proper treatment, his sight had been fully restored.
This year’s medical mission to Armenia again included Dr. Jorge Cuadros, Director of EyePACS, and Pablo Cuadros, program coordinator for EyePACS.
In collaboration with the Armenian Eye Care Project (AECP), the group launched the ambitious project to screen 150,000 diabetes patients in Armenia over the next few months. AECP was founded by Dr. Roger Ohanesian in 1992 and has been a crucial source of aid in developing eye care in Armenia, providing state-of- the-art equipment and surgical training to Armenian ophthalmologists, hosting international conferences, and serving as a model for other humanitarian organizations. AECP distributed six retinal cameras to Yerevan (where Eduard had been successfully treated a year ago), Gyumri, Artik, Maralik and Kapan.
Dedicated to reaching its ambitious goal, AECP has already imaged more than 700 patients’ retinas as of this writing. The retinal pictures are uploaded to the EyePACS portal, which has now collected retinal images of more than a half-million patients worldwide. Then they are read by an automated algorithm created by Kaushal Solanki, with a group called EyeNUK, as well as Armenian ophthalmologists previously certified by EyePACS. Other certified image graders, part of the regular EyePACS team in the US, are helping to read the images in order to maintain the project’s momentum.
With Dr. Thusu’s recent donation of the additional retinal camera, the screening initiative now reaches as far as the remote city of Kapan. Another new addition to the medical mission this year was Remidio, an Indian company that has developed innovative cell phone technology for retinal imaging. Anand Sivaraman, founding CEO of Remidio, was on hand to help train local Armenians interested in becoming retinal photographers. EyePACS was able to certify eleven new Armenian retinal photographers on this one-year-anniversary trip.
Dr. Cuadros, Director of EyePACS, said upon his return, "We are very pleased to be a part of this truly collaborative effort to reduce blindness from diabetes in Armenia."