Dr. Narine Okonyan
When I was in high school, I never wanted to become a doctor, I loved the sciences but my passion was literature, I read every book I could find and seriously considered journalism as a future professional field. But I had close friends - we are still the same five best friends - and four of us decided to go to the medical university to be together, so I found myself in medicine. To be honest, I fell in love with the profession very early and never regretted choosing it. When it came time to think about the speciality, I found very passionate people in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit department and became a doctor in the intensive care unit. In Soviet times it was not at all easy, I remember that for the first eight months I worked without salary, but I managed to prove that I could handle it, and I was put on the staff of the Arabkir Medical Centre in Yerevan. Since the clinic collaborated with the Zurich Children's Hospital, I was lucky to have an internship in Switzerland, then an ongoing training in Austria, and also had the opportunity to work in Doha, Qatar.
All my life I worked very hard and for more than 25 years put all my soul and heart into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of Arabkir Medical Centre, one of the best children’s hospitals in Armenia, where I was head of the Infants’ Department for eight years.
How did you come to work at UWC Dilijan?
One day my daughter told me that there was a vacancy for a doctor at the UWCD, where she did an external audit. She really liked the school and encouraged me to apply. When I was offered a position, I was not sure whether I really wanted to change my job. However, I made the decision to move to Dilijan. To be honest, I very first felt guilty about quitting my clinical work but once I started working here, I felt there is a lot of scope for using my expertise.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
When I was working in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, the hardest days were when we couldn't help and had to explain this to the parents of a sick child. Unfortunately, sometimes medicine is powerless, and this is exactly when I feel useless. It was quite difficult to accept that in some countries the same pathologies could be successfully treated due to availability of the right equipment and medications. It is encouraging that in Armenia, we're making a lot of progress in healthcare and it is much easier to find a proper approach and good treatments. When I worked in the pediatric department, I think another big challenge was communication, it was really needed to talk all day, but talking was never my forte:) On one hand, I badly miss my job as a pediatrician, it is still difficult. In UWCD it is challenging to work with the young people from completely different countries, sometimes I can see when students do not trust what I say or they try to tell me how to treat them, what to prescribe, and I always have to be patient and polite, which is not easy:):)
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Nothing compares to the feeling when you yourself can alleviate suffering and cure a seriously ill child - it was like every time you win a battle or pull out a lucky ticket. I had the same feelings when I could see how residents - doctors in training - could find the right solution. I have always enjoyed having young people around, and I am very proud of successful doctors I helped train. At UWCD, most of all I love our students. It is very touching when our students come to me just to talk, to share their thoughts, worries and plans. I am always very happy when I see their successes, I always learn something new from the younger generation. Our students are the best part of UWC's values, and this is very true for me.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love reading, I love walking, I love spending time with friends, but who doesn't love it? I love to swim but rarely find the time. I try to go to Yerevan on weekends to be with my family. I spend a lot of time with my two grandchildren and enjoy watching them grow up.