87 Year-Old Dr. Yeva Bezhanova: Rumors Of The Pediatrician’s Retirem

Yeranuhi Soghoyan

12:25, December 26, 2012

It takes our bus one hour to make the 25 kilometre trip from Gyumri
north to the sleepy village of Amasya.

The snow has been falling for the past two days and the roads are
a mess.

The inclement weather hasn’t stopped people lining up in the waiting
room of the Amasya health center. I open the door to the children’s
ward and spot a young woman sitting with two kids.

The woman doctor invites me in, thinking I’m the next patient. My
escort chimes in, “Sorry doctor, she’s a reporter, not a patient. She
called yesterday asking about you and here she is.”

It’s safe to say that 87 year-old paediatrician Yeva Bezhanova is
much beloved by Amasya residents. They don’t want to see her leave.

Doctor Bezhanova, however, has decided to finally retire in January.

Her decision has created a panic at the center since she’s the only
professional medical person on staff.

Yeva Bezhanova started to work at the center in 1988. She was born
in Baku in 1925. After graduating from the Medical Institute, she
worked for forty years in Nakhijevan.

The 1988 Karabakh movement was a turning point in her life regarding
her relocation to Armenia.

“They suddenly remembered that I was an Armenian. So they fired me
since I had already reached retirement. I could no longer live and
work in Nakhijevan. So I packed my bags and came to Armenia. I had
a married sister in Leninakan but decided to settle in Amasya. They
had a need for a paediatrician and were allocating an apartment,” Dr.

Bezhanova recounts.

Hripsimeh Gevorgyan brings her two kids in to see the doctor. Six
year-old Davit has a cough.

“I heard that the doctor will be leaving next month. We don’t know
what will happen. Hopefully the center will keep the nurse on staff,”
exclaims Gevorgyan.

As Dr. Bezhanova writes the prescription, she asks the young mother if
the instructions are clear regarding the dosage to be taken and when.

She says that she learnt to read and write Armenian so that she could
write out the prescriptions in Armenian, and not Russian, for the
mothers to understand. The good doctor adds that oftentimes the young
moms can’t even understand the Armenian, let alone a foreign language.

Vardishagh Serobyan, the nurse who will have her hands full when Dr.

Bezhanova leaves, says one can write tales about the picky and diligent
nature of the paediatrician.

“She will examine a child for one half hour. Her diagnosis can’t be
questioned and she is always right. Then she’ll look you in the eyes
and ask if you understand. She can tell just by looking at you. That’s
our Bezhanova, very attentive, caring and thorough.”

Dr. Bezhanova lives by alone in her one room apartment. She never
married and tells me the topic is off limits. All she’ll confess is
that she found true love just once in her life.

She tells me that being a paediatrician requires great patience and
skill. Luckily, Dr. Bezhanova loves children and her young patients
love her in return.

I ask myself how many others would chose to work as a paediatrician
in this outlying rural community. The obvious answer – very few.

“I always say we don’t work by the clock here. I rarely take a lunch
break even though my house is close by. People from the local villages
somehow make it to Amasya in all this snow. I can’t keep them waiting.

The calling of my profession is to treat the sick. It’s an obligation,”
Dr. Bezhanova says.

The 87 year-old paediatrician even makes house calls during the cold
and snowy winter months. On her off days, Dr. Bezhanova visits her
76 year-old sister in Gyumri.

“My sister also lives alone since her husband passed away. Her
daughter moved to Russia. I call several times a week just to check
up on her; to see if she hasn’t fallen and broken something. That’s
how it is when one gets up in years. My sister was just four when
our mom died. I was the one who raised her.”

Dr. Bezhanova doesn’t interact much with people outside of work. The
only ones she is close with is a family of distant relatives who live
in another section of her building.

The Haroutyunyan family also welcome the good doctor whenever she

Ashot Haroutyunyan, one of the relatives, tells me he’s constantly
amazed by the doctor’s sharp memory, even at her age.

“She remembers all our birthdays even when we don’t. The doctor will
always show up with a small gift to celebrate. She’s very attentive,
not only to us but to all her patients. Even in this winter chill
she goes on foot to all the homes just to see how the children are

Dr. Bezhanova was first recognized for her years of dedicated
medical service when working in Nakhijevan. She was awarded the
title “Honoured Physician”. In 2004, she was again paid tribute when
Armenian President Robert Kocharyan bestowed her with the title of
“Honoured Physician of Armenia”.

Anna Mkoyan, Director of the Amasya Medical Center, confesses that
it will be tough to get someone to fill Dr. Bezhanova’s shoes.

“Professionals today just do not want to work in a faraway place like
this. I’ve been searching for a replacement for a year now and still
no luck. Dr. Bezhanova hasn’t actually filed for retirement but if
she does there is nothing I can do to stop her. They say that no one
is irreplaceable but right now she is for us.”

Before leaving, I tell Dr. Bezhanova what her friends and colleagues
have said about her, how they respect and love her.

“Well, dear girl, what can I say? We all do what we can. But I have
grown old and I get tired. It’s only natural. I help people as much
as I can. You can understand my desire to take it easy now. I would
have liked to have prepared someone to take my place…”

The venerable doctor politely refuses my offer of help. It’s not
her way.