Tuesday, December 20, 2016 12:00 AM

Community and local ag leaders team up for medical mission to Jordan

Community Medical Centers teamed up with the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation to donate and transport more than $200,000 in medical equipment and supplies to Jordan, which has taken in the majority of Syrian refugees from the war there.

The California Agricultural Leadership Class 46 delivers suitcases full of medical equipment donate to the government-run Al Nadeem Hospital in Madaba, Jordan. Community helped arrange the delivery to the hospital which helps care for the many Syrian refugees that Joran has taken in.
Berj Apkarian, executive director of physician relations at Community Medical Centers and the first Honorary Counsel of the Republic of Armenia in the U.S., helped spearhead the medical mission. Apkarian and the members of the Agricultural Leadership Class 46 delivered 28 suitcases and 14 backpacks filled with portable medical machines and equipment to the government-run Al Nadeem Hospital in Madaba, just 19 miles south of Jordan’s capital city Amman.
The group brought IV pumps, blood pressure cuffs, glucose monitors, dental instruments, surgical scalpels and scissors, pediatric scales /measures, four portable ultrasound machines, and six small EKG (electrocardiogram) machines hooked to laptop computer monitors that can share results through secure intranet connections to cardiac specialists elsewhere.
When delivering the equipment, Michael Thomas, an agriculture professor at California State University, Fresno, and the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation’s director of education, told the hospital’s chief medical officer: “We’ve gone to considerable work to bring all this. We just want you to take this and do a lot of good for people here.”
“The chief medical officer at Nadeem Hospital was just elated and blown away,” said Apkarian. “It was like Christmas opening all those bags. Even at the Jordanian embassy they were blown away that a small community hospital network in Central California would do this.”
The mission was personal for Apkarian, who immigrated to Fresno from Syria in 1979 and whose mother and sister are still trapped in war torn Aleppo, Syria. Much of the equipment will help medical personnel caring for Syrian refugees.
The idea for the medical mission originated with Professor Thomas as part of his agricultural leadership class’ social service project. Thomas approached Community’s corporate CEO Tim Joslin with a request to donate hospital equipment and help with surgical, technical support to the Jordanian hospital. The non-profit California Agricultural Leadership Foundation has partnered with four California universities and to do leadership training in the ag industry and charitable work on behalf of the state’s growers.
Berj Apkarian, (far right in black suit) Community’s executive director of physician relations and the first Honorary Counsel of the Republic of Armenia in the U.S., helps unpack medical equipment with the Al Nadeem Hospital’s chief medical officer (center in white lab coat).
Joslin put the task in Apkarian’s hands since he is fluent in Arabic, familiar with that part of the world and has diplomatic credentials. “I had to use my diplomatic status as a vehicle to reach out to the Jordanian embassy in D.C. about how we can bring supplies in. We were not allowed to bring in any pharmaceuticals, only medical equipment,” Apkarian explained. “And at the airport I had to use my diplomatic card again to get in with all those suitcases.”
It took months of meetings and checking regulations to arrange the donation. Apkarian also reached out to medical equipment vendor Medtronic for donations of laparoscopic surgical instruments, he said.
“Congressman (Jim) Costa played a role with TSA (Transportation Safety Administration). And we had to meet with the station manager at the San Francisco airport ahead of time to make sure we could get through security with the equipment. We were going to have to pay an extra $100 per extra bag, but British Airways waived those fees,” said Apkarian.
Apkarian met with U.S. Embassy officials in Jordan when he arrived and the consular members asked him to give a speech, Apkarian said. “I praised Tim Joslin for reaching out beyond our regional boundaries with a medical mission of mercy to make a difference in human lives.”
Apkarian added, “Lots of credit goes to Tim Joslin and his leadership and the vision he has to help people. I appreciate the trust and confidence that was placed on me. For me this trip was an honor and a privilege to be able to do this.”
Erin Kennedy and Esther Oganyan reported this story. Reach them at cmcnews@communitymedical.org