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Titan Asatryan

King’s College London
Master's Degree, Master of Public Health (MPH) in Public Health
Huys Scholar 2023

Headshot of Huys Scholar Titan Asatryan

I do not stop thinking — have I saved him? Him: whom I have never met. Him: who is fighting for his survival in a different part of my country… As a military doctor, I witnessed human suffering in the midst of a raging war. Once, at the beginning of the 2nd Nagorno Karabakh War, when I arrived at a village, I found myself under the barrage of artillery. A man surrounded by a burning ground, near the blazing vehicle, was holding a child’s paralyzed body on his lap, sobbing out “Save my son! Please! Save him!” The war took many lives but not that one. I saved the child from death. Yet, did I save him from the war and its aftermath?.. This is just one of many stories that boosted my determination to become a public health professional to be able to answer the question — Have I saved Him?

Pandemics, rising rates of mental disorders, and substance addictions are crippling not only the military but also the civilian population in Armenia. In Artsakh, the accessibility of healthcare is even more complex considering the constant and severe geopolitical volatility, poverty, the scarcity of specialists, movement restrictions, etc. During and after the war, my country struggled with tackling the pandemic and psychiatric casualties. Accordingly, this leads me to the question of how to ward off, detect and respond robustly to the threats of biohazards, thus enhancing the pandemic/biological threat preparedness of Armenia. What are those bio- and health security policies that would fight against public health disinformation? Taking into consideration that in some countries gene editing technologies and gain-of-function research constitute their biological defense programmes, why do not think about developing our own health sector cyber security? Furthermore, what initiatives would contribute to changes in policy that would cover the mental health treatment gaps (and not only) and provide at least decent and appropriate medical service to the serving, ex-serving personnel, and their family members? Of course, in order to generate nationwide success we need to identify the origins of health-related issues and translate the research into impactful policies and guidelines to target local needs. We must closely survey how people both collectively and individually perceive war and how they treat those who are affected by it. So, in the near future, my work will be confined mainly to finding answers to these questions, while creating a favorable environment for the feasibility of research.

In terms of health security within the framework of the Civil-Military and International Collaboration, it is an urgent necessity for Armenia to effectively mobilize, exploit, and intertwine international, civilian, and military health-related security sector capacities as well as to upgrade civil-military collaboration in the care of armed forces personnel and veterans. Hence, we must closely analyze civil-military relations within health economies. Compare military medical services between countries. And comprehend what are the innovations and lessons learned from military medical practice, especially from those states that are involved in a conflict for a long period of time. For instance, during my deployment to the U.S. Army, there was an outstanding idea-knowledge-experience exchange environment that was mutually beneficial for all parties involved in discussions. But what if we could extend such discussions even further on a scientific level and scale up this kind of exchange programmes in closer and consistent collaboration with the Armed Forces of our Western allies? This issue has become another priority for me in my career development.

Last but not least, during my service, I experienced ethical challenges on a day-to-day basis. Particularly during the war. The ignorance or negligence of Military Medical Ethics in the Armed Forces of Armenia is a big issue. It is imperative for military medical leaders to organize training with medical personnel discussing different ethical issues such as how to triage the wounded, how to exploit scarce medical resources, how to provide first mental health care, etc. Such discussions would play a crucial role for military medical personnel to be able to face reality on the battlefield. So, I think we must contrive new approaches to promote Military and Military Medical Ethics awareness across Armenia and countries involved in armed conflicts.

Therefore, in continuation of serving Armenia and Artsakh by addressing healthcare-related challenges, I selected the Master in Public Health (MPH) programme taught at King’s College London which has a world-leading reputation for intertwining Conflict and Public Health. This unique interdisciplinary programme, provided by the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, will allow me to gain practical skills and extensive knowledge in Epidemiology, Prevention & Control of Communicable Diseases, Social Research Methods, and Economics to observe the impact of warfare on civilian/military populations from different angles. My more-than-four-year military medical leadership experience, combined with my university knowledge, will help me critically examine public health issues specific to active war zones and design and execute appropriate research in these areas. I will be able to observe the application of global healthcare concepts and theories and scale up innovative approaches to fight for every human life by building resilient health systems and increasing health service (especially military mental health) access and delivery in my country. Based on my research interests, I chose King’s as a venue for my further education as, in fact, in this cutting-edge institution there are two unique research groups as well — the King’s Center for Military Health Research (KCMHR) and the Centre for Conflict and Health Research (CCHR), the research themes of which give me prospects for changing the world for those people who are somehow affected by war or any other similar atrocity. Involvement in these research groups will be allowing me to gain a deeper understanding of Military Health, Health Intelligence & Biosecurity, Civil-Military Relations, and Health Systems in Conflict. Consequently, it will assist me in addressing healthcare gaps in the public/military health sectors. I am confident that sharing my experience with like-minded students and renowned experts specialized in Conflict, Health, and Military Health will spark discussions helping all of us to find answers and raise more questions. Additionally, I will build strong links between KCL and Armenia to develop the country’s educational, scientific, and military medical research capacities. I will hopefully lead health policy reforms and transform public health education in Armenia to teach and mentor more people so that together we will face public health challenges and improve the well-being of civilians and servicemen. 

The cruelty of the war taught me how to assess the situation and make vital decisions quickly, triage casualties, remain calm, and control the chaos around me. It enlightened me to fight the atrocity with love and responsibility enabling me to serve my knowledge for the common good. As a combat veteran, I am determined to create a better world for Armenians where I could say—  I saved Him from the war and its aftermath. I saved Him, whom I have never met. Thus, it would be my honor to become a part of the community of young leaders of Huys Foundation and create a safer future for him. Him: who is fighting for his survival in a different part of my country.

I am aware that Huys Foundation is granting the Huys Scholarship to me with the anticipation of my good faith pursuit and implementation of the projects and undertakings described in this letter, to which I hereby commit.