LOS ANGELES, California, USA – The Autumn/Winter 2015 issue of the UCLA Public Health Magazine features an article, titled “Rebuilding After Tragedy,” which discusses an on-going follow-up study into the mental and physical health of the 1988 Spitak Earthquake survivors. One of the first and largest population-based assessments of earthquake survivors, the study was started in 1990 by Dr. Haroutune Armenian, President Emeritus of the American University of Armenia (AUA), and has involved several prominent researchers in the field, including Dr. Hagop Akiskal, Professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego.
“Armenia is on a better trajectory in the field of medicine because of the work of Armenian and the rest of the bright people he has chosen to work with,” Dr. Armen Goenjian, Professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, wrote.
In 2011, while Armenian was teaching at the AUA School of Public Health, one of his students, Vahe Khachadourian, approached him about re-contacting participants from those early phases of the study to see how they were doing 23 years after the quake. Today, Khachadourian is a UCLA Fielding School of Public Health School doctoral student continuing to work with Armenian, currently Professor in Residence of epidemiology at the same school, on follow-up studies of more than 1,700 individuals from the original cohort.
By following up with the survivors over such a long period of time, Armenian and Khachadourian are beginning to identify factors associated with being able to move beyond the psychological difficulties and rebuild their lives. “By learning more about what is most helpful to the recovery, public health can develop programs and policies that will make a difference following future disasters,” Khachadourian said.