Armenia hosts major osteoporosis events in Yerevan

Dr. John P. Bilezikian, Professor of Medicine and Vice-Chair for International Education and Research at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, led the three events in Yerevan.
Participants of International Summit of Central Asian and Eastern European Countries on October 3, 2016
Three seminal events put the spotlight on Armenia as a center of osteoporosis dialogue among central Asian & Eastern European countries; continued a dialogue about osteoporosis with leading health care professionals and policy makers; and advanced further educational initiatives for Armenian health care professionals.

During the week of October 3rd, 2016, Dr. John P. Bilezikian, Professor of Medicine and Vice-Chair for International  Education and Research at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York,  led three seminal events  in Yerevan, Armenia. These events helped to establish further Armenia as a center of osteoporosis dialogue among central Asian and Eastern European Countries;  continued a dialogue about osteoporosis with leading health care professionals in Armenia; and advanced further educational initiatives among Armenian physicians and health care professionals.

With these three events, major goals were met not only in terms of providing further education and training for doctors and health care professionals in Armenia but also in helping to establish Armenia as a center of an international dialogue about osteoporosis.  These successful efforts were aided by Dr. Varta Babalyan, President of the Armenian Osteoporosis Association and Dr. Olga Lesynak, President of the Russian Osteoporosis Association.  Participation of The International Osteoporosis Foundation, led by Dr. Philippe Halbout, Chief Executive Officer, and Professor Cyrus Cooper, President-elect, further strengthened the impact of these events.

International Summit of Central Asian and Eastern European Countries: October 3, 2016

On October 4, thought leaders from National Societies of the International Osteoporosis Foundation gathered to discuss local and national activities related to osteoporosis and to present progress reports on establishing and implementing tools to determine risk of an osteoporotic fracture. The countries represented were:  Russia, Krygyz, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, and the United States. As the host country, Armenia provided participants with a progress report of its activities that included the work of the Armenian Osteoporosis Association, led by Dr. Babalyan.  The goal to establish and to apply fracture risk assessment information as it pertains specifically to a given country is being reached by many of the countries that were represented at the Summit Conference. Armenia, itself, has made great progress over the past several years in achieving this goal. It is expected that within the next several months, the online risk assessment tool, known as FRAX, will be available with country-specific data for Armenia. This development represents a major achievement in Armenia’s efforts to obtain the kind of information that just a few years ago would have been considered to be a fanciful goal. Similar achievements by the countries participating in the Summit were noteworthy. Dr. Halbout shared his views of the important role of national societies in furthering the global mission of the IOF. Summits such as this one are an important way to disseminate important information among participating countries.  Armenia stood tall in its leadership role at this conference.

Leadership Dinner Conference: October 5, 2016

At these October events, it has become an annual tradition for Drs. Bilezikian and Babalyan to invite governmental leaders and major figures in health care in Armenia to a round table to discuss major issues for which action is needed.  The program for 2016 featured Dr. Ara Babloyan, Chair, Standing Committee on Health Care to the Parliament of Armenia. Also participating in the dinner conference were Dr. Halbout and Professor Cooper.  Dr. Bilezikian summarized 10 years of activities that he has helped to organize and implement throughout the country. Dr. Halbout and Professor Cooper called attention to the need for close interactions between the Armenian Osteoporosis Association, local health care professionals, municipalities, and the government.  Dr. Babloyan was very supportive of the collaborative spirit that was expressed during the conference and felt confident that further progress would be made in the many aspects of osteoporosis awareness that are ongoing in the country at this time.

10th Annual Osteoporosis Symposium: October 6, 2016

Over the past 10 years, Dr. Bilezikian has organized a symposium designed to provide doctors and other health care professionals with the most up-to-date information about osteoporosis. The meeting has grown enormously, starting as a small conference 10 years ago with about 100 participants to the meeting on October 6 that virtually filled the Main Hall of the American University of Armenia.  Professor Varduhi Petroysan, Dean of the School of Public Health at the American University of Armenia was instrumental in helping to facilitate and ensure the success of the Symposium. The conference drew over 600 attendees. It was registered as certifiable Continuing Medical Educational event. Professor Cooper, Oxford University, UK, was the key note speaker. His lecture focused on the epidemiology of osteoporosis. Other topics included the ‘Armenian Plate’- and whether it is nutritionally adequate to help prevent osteoporosis.  New and controversial topics in the diagnosis and management of Osteoporosis were covered.  Individual workshops emphasized issues of skeletal health as they relate to prevention of osteoporosis; the perimenopausal woman; the role of glucocorticoids as a cause of osteoporosis; diabetes and obesity in skeletal health. The symposium also emphasized the acquisition of bone densitometry in Armenia. The bone densitometer is a non-invasive and safe means by which osteoporosis can be diagnosed.  While a diagnostic gold standard, the instruments are expensive. Through Dr. Bilezikian’s efforts over the past 10 years, he has delivered nine bone densitometers to hospitals and medical clinics not only in Yerevan but also in Gyumri and Stepanakert (Karabagh). This year, two more bone densitometers will be placed, one in Vanadzor and the other in Kapan. Armenia was at the bottom of the list 10 years ago in the availability of bone densitometry among the nations of the world. It is now above the mean among all the countries in the world. The donation of these bone densitometers by the Hologic Corporation (USA) is gratefully acknowledged. These symposia, led by Dr. Bilezikian, are designed to complement this diagnostic capability to measure bone density with an educational program that imparts cutting-edge knowledge to all attendees.

The event was covered widely by the media in Armenia:

The concentration of three key programs in Armenia, all in the space of three days, speaks volumes to the progress that has been made over the past 10 years in calling attention to the world wide problem on osteoporosis and in establishing Armenia as a center of the mission to publicize and disseminate key information both locally and internationally. Dr. Bilezikian has brought not only the means by which osteoporosis can be diagnosed in Armenia, but he has also brought with him, year after year, a faculty that can bring new information to doctors and other health care professionals.  Increasingly, the faculty consists of physicians from Armenia. For the first time, this year has seen Armenia serve as host to a key international summit on osteoporosis in Armenia, helping to establish this country’s role as a force for education and dialogue among the nations of Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

Drs. Bilezikian and Babalyan gratefully acknowledge support from the Hrair and Anna Hovnanian Foundation, the Hologic Corporation, the JHM Foundation, the International Osteoporosis Foundation, the Fund for Armenian Relief, the American University of Armenia and the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University.