Aram Bedrosian is accustomed to forging his own way. A transfer student to UMass Amherst from a small private university in New Jersey, he was attracted to UMass Amherst because of its diverse faculty and student body, its interdisciplinary approach to education, emphasis on research, and beautiful location. Bedrosian also found a smaller, supportive community in Commonwealth Honors College, where, as an honors student, he became involved as an orientation leader and as a coordinator for weekly student events. His embrace of the many opportunities available to him at UMass Amherst is serving him well as a medical volunteer in Armenia.
Initially a psychology major, the course Sensation & Perception, which examines the cellular and biochemical processes behind emotion and behavior, was a turning point for him. “In one course I was shown the beauty of cellular communication and how billions of cells in our brain lead to emotions and behavior. I was hooked and changed my major to neuroscience.” Bedrosian still had not found his niche, however, and felt constrained by the requirements of his new major. He expressed his frustrations in a meeting with a Commonwealth Honors College academic advisor, who suggested that he investigate the Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration (BDIC) major. In BDIC, Bedrosian found the type of learning model he was seeking. “A BDIC major gave me the ability to study material from microbiology, biostatistics, communication, politics, history, genetics, volunteerism, histology, and global health while continuing with my neuroscience major. The choice to dual major was right for me.”
During the summer of 2010, Bedrosian spent nine weeks in Armenia with the Armenian Assembly of America. During his visit, “my Armenian identity was sincerely challenged,” he says. As part of the Armenian diaspora, Bedrosian’s construct of what it means to be Armenian was much different from residents of the country, as well as his fellow travelers, who were from the west coast of the United States. What he learned about the culture during that short visit intrigued him and sometimes frustrated him, but ultimately motivated him to live there after graduating from UMass. “I realized that I needed to spend more time in Armenia to engage with all the aspects of my heritage within the country of its origin.” After graduation, Bedrosian spent several months preparing for and taking the MCAT exam. Following the exam, he arrived in Armenia with the Birthright Armenia Program. Participants are placed with a local family, enrolled in language courses, and attend forums on historical and contemporary Armenian topics. Given his interest in medicine, Bedrosian was placed as a volunteer a Nairi and Hyastan Medical Centers, and also at the American University of Armenia’s public health department.
Bedrosian is immersing himself in a wide range of activities in the medical field. At Nairi Medical Center, he is volunteering as a surgeon’s assistant, mainly observing surgeries, but sometimes taking an active role in surgery, going through the sterilization process and handing the necessary tools to the physicians. At Hyastan Medical Center he volunteers as a pathologist’s assistant. He reviews case histories for each patient and observes autopsies. Bedrosian is also part of the debrief process after autopsies, which involves determining the main disease(s), related disease(s), complication(s), and the ultimate cause of death. At the American University of Armenia public health department, he is volunteering as a research assistant. He is given a variety of projects to work on and has the ability to begin his own research. From this variety of experiences, Bedrosian has again reached a crossroads: “Over the roughly 1,000 hours of observation, I know, with certainty, that being a physician is the right career for me. My own research interest is medical education, specifically simulation-based medical education. The clinical setting of medicine is my first love, but my desire for agency over my career pulls me toward research.” Time will tell of the novel course that Bedrosian will chart for himself as he pursues a career in medicine.
One of the most well-known statements in the modern Hippocratic Oath is “first, do no harm.” Bedrosian finds deeper meaning in another phrase in the oath, “I will not be ashamed to say ‘I know not.’” He adds, “There is simply too much research that has been done in medicine to be an expert on everything. UMass Amherst gave me the tools to investigate the world. The education I received from UMass Amherst and Commonwealth Honors College has enabled me to investigate all those things ‘I know not’ and become an expert. I am grateful to UMass Amherst as the beginning place for my academic training and development of my curiosity.”