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January 2008

Hellenicare: A Decade in Helping the Forgotten Hellenes

In January 1997, as the founding President of the World Council of Hellenes (SAE), Andrew A. Athens visited the forgotten Hellenes of the former Soviet Republics beginning with a trip to the Republic of Georgia. The poverty and lack of medical care he witnessed prompted him to immediately begin the Primary Health Care Initiative. Ten years, later this modest attempt to restore basic medical care has grown into the humanitarian organization known today as hellenicare.

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the first medical center established in Tbilisi, Georgia, hellenicare sponsored a series of events that included a special medical mission program. Traveling with Mr. Athens, were Dr. Charles Kanakis, Director of Medical Affairs of hellenicare, Dr. Peter J. Panton, a leading ophthalmologist in the Chicago area who performed the first outpatient cataract surgery at the clinic in Tbilisi, Dr. Stavros Alexopoulos, a podiatrist affiliated with Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, Dr. Stavroula Spyropoulos, a dentist in private practice specializing in family care and cosmetic dentistry, and Dr. Basil Spyropoulos, a psychiatrist at the Mercy Walworth Hospital in Wisconsin. These four doctors volunteered their services to provide care and training to hellenicare’s medical staff in Tbilisi. In 2000, hellenicare conducted a coronary by-pass surgery and training program at the State Hospital in Tbilisi.

The events included a reception celebrating the Tenth Anniversary and a visit to the Tbilisi clinic by a delegation of U.S. government officials and dignitaries from other non-governmental organizations. "We greatly appreciate being able to partner with the Hellenes,” said Mr. Adams. “Their clinic in Tbilisi is a fine example of the type of well-run and properly maintained medical facility we hope will become the standard of care throughout Georgia."

Trips to the villages of Telavi and Tsikhisjvari were also made. In Telavi, hellenicare has just completed renovation of the shower facilities at the Telavi Boarding School. In Tsikhisjvari, which is one of the last Greek speaking villages in Georgia, hellenicare operates a small clinic and mobile medical unit program.

“Ten years ago we embarked on a mission to help the people of Georgia,” said Mr. Athens. “We have accomplished much and yet our work is just beginning. I express my gratitude to our staff members who are responsible for our success and to the doctors from the U.S. who participated in our medical mission program. They are making an invaluable contribution to our program, helping us to enhance the skills of our physicians and nurses.” Hellenicare’s next medical mission program will be to Ukraine in 2008, focusing on women’s health. “For more information about hellenicare’s programs, please contact our office at 312-337-7243 or visit our web site at www.hellenicare.org.”

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