Arman Tsaturyan (MPH ’13): An Epitome of Success in Practical Medicine and Scientific Research

7 min read

Arman Tsaturyan received his Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from the Gerald and Patricia Turpanjian College of Health Sciences (CHS) of the American University of Armenia (AUA), concurrently specializing in urology at Yerevan State Medical University (YSMU). He is currently head of the Urologic Oncology Service of the Urology Department at Erebuni Medical Center. After graduating from AUA, he was engaged in multiple research endeavors throughout the world that further expanded his professional experience. To date, Tsaturyan has published 60 scientific articles in 40 different academic journals. In his words, the MPH program marked the beginning of his journey into the world of academic research and publishing. His love for his profession and aspiration to do his best at all times have influenced him to build an exceptional career at a young age.

Choosing a Career Path

Before entering AUA, I was not sure which direction my career would take me and whether or not I would continue as a physician. At that time, I was still an undergraduate student at YSMU and kept pondering the available alternatives and paths to get ahead. I considered the option of combining graduate studies at YSMU and AUA, concurrently attending classes at both universities from 2011 to 2013. I did not want to lose time or opportunities while deciding which career direction to take.

The Impact of AUA on My Career

The knowledge, skills, and values AUA instilled in me were instrumental to the success of my career and are still part of what guides me in my everyday work. I learned about the importance of teamwork as I realized it is not possible to do everything all by yourself. At AUA, the workload was too much sometimes, so we divided our work and responsibilities within our team. Today, some of the surgeries we perform also involve teamwork. It takes us less time to perform the same surgery because of our effective teamwork.

In addition, I learned the importance of reliability: You need to be a reliable partner for your teammates and, at the same time, be able to count on others. Another trait I developed while studying at AUA is being calm. I remember taking toxicology and how all of us were moaning about the heavy workload during those weeks. At some point, you understand that no matter how stressed you are, the work will get done, and you’ll get through. Therefore, it is better to try to overcome the difficulties without getting unnecessarily stressed.

Besides the values and skills I developed at AUA, the University gave me wonderful friends with whom I still stay in touch. They are motivated people who know what to do and how to do it. I am fortunate that I can rely on their support with no second thoughts.

The MPH Program: The Road to Success

The skills I gained in AUA’s MPH program have helped me greatly throughout my career. I did not know how to conduct proper research before coming to AUA. When I graduated from the MPH program, my thesis was the first scientific article I published. Subsequently, I applied for and was accepted to work on a ten-month research project at the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). I believe I was given that chance due to the knowledge and skills I had gained at AUA, which helped me write the research proposal. Afterward, the opportunities came rolling in like a snowball — one research project after another.

We were lucky to have Dr. Varduhi Petrosyan and other professors at the MPH program as our mentors, guiding us through our studies. They struck a balance whereby we neither underestimated our abilities nor became overly confident. I remember entering Dr. Byron Crape’s office one day and getting reassurance from him that I was doing great and everything was fantastic. He was incredible at motivating everyone. Then, I entered Dr. Petrosyan’s office, and she told me that I could do better and that I had the potential to get better results if I worked harder. I very much appreciated getting feedback from both and learning how they appraised my work.

Whenever I faced challenging situations during my studies, I felt their support. I had the chance to do postdoctoral research in Switzerland while I completed my Ph.D. One of the requirements for the position was to have published scientific articles. But when I returned to Armenia, I realized I only had raw data and two months to complete my research. I was determined to apply myself during those two months to get the postdoc position. It was a crazy period in my life. I remember waking up at 4:00am to go to AUA to work in a quiet place as my second child was only ten days old, crying and not sleeping. Luckily, Dr. Petrosyan allowed me to use the MPH library to work on my research. During that period, she helped me a lot, for which I am very thankful.

Returning to Armenia: Implementing Innovative Practices

Upon graduating from AUA, I traveled a lot as part of professional and academic exchange programs, fellowships, doctoral and postdoctoral research engagements, conferences, seminars, and grant projects. My professional experience led me to countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Czech Republic. Although I enjoyed temporarily living in some of those countries, I realized I always yearned to return to Armenia. I did most of my publishing during the two years I lived in Greece. They had wet and dry labs for conducting research. But every time I delivered a presentation with my professor, then chairman of the European Association of Urologists, the Greek flag would be displayed by my name instead of our Armenian flag. Every time I looked at that foreign flag, I thought, “This is not my nation.” So, I turned down job offers in Europe and decided to live and work in Armenia.

Now, I plan to implement some of the practices and ideas I learned abroad in Armenia. For instance, doctors in Armenia do not always recognize why they should do research. There should be someone to motivate and guide them through this process, especially when they are new to it. Currently, doing research is not common practice here, and its importance is often neglected. The perception in Western countries is different. One cannot be a successful practicing doctor unless one conducts and publishes research. Your research is what stands out on your resume.

In Armenia, if you want to work in a hospital, nobody cares if you have done research or what type of research interests you. There is a need for development not only in the sphere of scientific research and publishing but also in technological advancements in practical medicine. Fifteen years ago, the field was in better shape, as technology was not as advanced globally, and we were competitive with our intellectual resources. Now, technology is constantly evolving: there are robot-assisted surgeries being performed abroad, along with other similar innovations. We are not too far off from Western countries, but we need to acquire new technology, without which scientific research will fall behind. The lack of advanced technologies is more of a regional problem, as there is a lack of interest by big companies to invest in research. But this will change.

Advice to Young Doctors

I would recommend all young doctors learn languages, seek opportunities, study abroad, and even do short fellowships overseas, all of which completely change one’s mindset. Once you travel abroad, you are exposed to a variety of techniques and practices. You should not be shy to approach people and build connections with them. I would advise my young colleagues to travel and learn from great professionals and, when they are ready, return and implement these advancements in Armenia.

I would definitely recommend AUA’s MPH program to my aspiring doctors. I am sure that it will help them find their way in their careers. They will learn the language, how to do research, and gain beneficial knowledge. The program is well-developed and competitive, with wonderful mentors always ready to support students.

Moving Forward With Bigger Targets

Moving forward, I have plans for my career as a urologist and researcher. On the practical end, I would like to improve my skills to minimize complications and achieve more positive outcomes in surgeries. Regarding my academic research, I plan to continue publishing. I am currently involved in the Young Academic Urologists of the European Association of Urology. This is truly an honor, as I am the first Armenian from Armenia to be a member of that group. I strive to play a more active role in the team, publish more articles, and aim to produce that one publication that will change practices in our field.

Though I have already published 60 scientific articles, I have still not produced that life-changing research finding that every researcher strives to achieve. Nowadays, you can find whatever topic you want in the literature, and very few research projects have revolutionized the field. As a researcher, the first few projects normally serve as a launching pad for you to conduct studies that will leave a more significant impact. You have to do research, improve your skills, and conduct the project better the next time. As a reviewer in scientific journals, I also work on building a network and connecting with other institutions for my research.

Formula for Success 

Time management is key to quickly achieving your professional goals. I would say my formula for success is to do my best at any given moment, even if my forthcoming plans are not yet clear. Sometimes, you are unsure what the future holds, but even with such doubts, you can do your best in that given moment. The key is to live in the moment, in that time and place. I think one also needs a bit of luck to be in the right place at the right time.

It is equally important to have the right motivation. I love my specialty, I really do. I conduct about 200-300 surgeries in a year, and obviously, there are some days when you don’t want to be in the operating room. Your knees and hands are shaking, the patient is losing a lot of blood in the surgery, and the situation is beyond your control. You want to take off your gloves and leave, but you can’t. Still, despite these difficulties and stressful moments, walking out of the operating room knowing that you have overcome several complications and saved a life is the most wonderful feeling, and it gives me all the adrenaline and motivation I need.

Looking Forward to Reuniting with Friends at AUA

This year is our 10th anniversary of graduation from AUA. My big expectation for this year’s reunion is to be together at AUA again, enjoying ourselves and reliving those memorable years. I associate AUA with friends, happiness, laughter, collaborative projects, and thesis writing. I remember encouraging my classmates to take dance breaks and freshen up before stressful moments, such as our thesis presentations or exams. I want us to walk down memory lane together because what stays with us are the memories. I am lucky to have wonderful and supportive classmates who still keep in touch with one another. Not everybody is lucky to have this type of connection with their classmates, and I am thankful to AUA for bringing us together.