James Madison University

NEW COLLEGES FORMED A plan to reorganize the College of Integrated Science and Technology into two colleges took effect July 1, 2012. The new colleges are the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and the College of Integrated Science and Engineering.


Physician Assistant, Mark Moran ('03), Travels to Armenia on a Medical Mission Trip

By Amanda Rivera

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PHOTO: Mark Moran (center) with Armenia Doctor and MayorTraveling to Armenia on a medical mission trip, Mark Moran, Physician Assistant (Health Sciences – ’03), says that he expected to be able to see many patients and perform many surgeries with little trouble. However, political, social and language barriers immensely challenged his expectations. From the onset, Mark and his colleagues were faced with a dilemma. Arriving in Kadjaran, Armenia, the group discovered that their permit papers had not been authorized. To their dismay, the regional health director refused to allow them to treat anyone. Mark says, “At the news of this, the local mayor, deputy mayor, former health director and local mining director (president of the only industry in town) came to our defense and persuaded the health director to let us stay and work.”

Hoping to provide short term medical and surgical services to an underserved community, Mark and his group were able to receive sponsorship from Medical Mission International (MMI). MMI assigned the surgical team to a 12-day mission trip in Armenia , a former republic of the Soviet Union located in Southwest Asia . Although MMI usually provides a surgical center for groups to work in, Kadjaran lacked an MMI facility; therefore, the team was put to work at a local hospital amongst resident physicians. Mark says, “Most of the Armenian clinicians are trained in Armenia or Russia. Very few clinicians travel outside of these two countries. For this reason many accepted clinical ideas are outdated according to the Western medical community. Some procedures that the US abandoned in the 1940s are still the status quo in Armenia.” The placement of the team allowed for the updating of these procedures. “The local surgeon, Dr. Vartan, was ready and willing to learn and was excited about learning to do procedures he had not seen or performed,” Mark says.

Mingling with the local population, Mark and his surgical team were also able to develop a sense of Armenian cultures. He says, “ They [the Armenian people] were very interested in our motivation to provide free care and were intrigued by our desire to care for their poor people. 'Humanity' is not an idea that the Armenian people are familiar with as they have such a long history of political oppression.” This intrigue for the group’s benevolent work was strongly recognizable through the geniality of the Armenian locals. Mark says, “…the people of Kadjaran were very hospitable, treated us to many meals, brought gifts out of appreciation, and were very patient , willing and happy customers.”

Two days out of the trip were taken so that the surgical team could sightsee. Among their stops were Mt. Ararat (where Noah’s Ark supposedly landed), the Iranian border, and the Armenian Stonehenge. Now back in the states, Mark continues his job as a PA in the Emergency Department in Danville, VA, however he says, “I now have a special place in my heart for the Armenian culture and hope to return one day.  In addition to having the opportunity to teach and treat the Armenians, I learned about a culture I barely knew existed, and a people that were very warm-hearted and receptive of our services.”