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Salpy Akaragian


Salpy AkaragianSalpy Akaragian, co-founded the Armenian International Medical Fund (AIM Fund) and helped establish Armenia’s first baccalaureate-equivalent nursing program

2013 National Volunteerism and Service Award Winner
Winner of the 2013 Giving Excellence Meaning (GEM) Award.

How did you feel when you learned you won the 2013 national GEM Award?
It was totally unexpected. I was happy to be a finalist, ecstatic when I received the regional award and couldn’t believe it when I was chosen for the national award from Nurse.com. I just feel this is a great honor, especially since it comes from my nursing peers.

Describe UCLA’s International Programs.
International programs started in the late 1980s when UCLA hosted a group of Japanese nursing students who wanted to see how we provide nursing care. It has evolved since then to be a program for student nurses, practicing nurses, chief nursing officers, and even hospital directors, who want to learn more about nursing care at UCLA. Each year, we coordinate about 400 visits, which can last anywhere from half a day to four weeks. Based on the visitors’ objectives and interests, we create a program tailored to meet their goals. In the past 25 years, we’ve hosted about 3,000 visitors from more than 20 countries.

What does AIM Fund support?
AIM Fund, which started in 2003, creates innovative healthcare projects in Armenia. It has a successful cochlear implant program that has given the gift of hearing and speech to 70 children and young adults in Armenia. In 2008, the Prime Minister of Armenia, Tigran Sargsyan, recognized the cochlear implant program as one of the country’s most innovative healthcare programs and agreed to support AIM Fund’s proposal to create a state-of-the-art training center for future ear surgeons. I co-founded the AIM Fund and UCLA otolaryngologist Akira Ishiyama, MD, has spearheaded the program, which also receives tremendous support from Harutyun Kushkyan, MD, PhD, director of the Erebouni Hospital, and Armenia’s Minister of Health.

What does your work as director of nurse credentialing involve?
Under the California Board of Registered Nursing Scope of Practice, each of our 170-plus nurse practitioners and eight nurse midwives must create a “Standardized Procedures” document that defines his or her individual practice. These practices include taking medical histories and performing physical exams for the patient population they serve, making referrals and consultations, ordering laboratory and radiological studies, ordering/prescribing medications and devices and describing how they are supervised when they consult with physicians. Approval of “Standardized Procedures” is part of the credentialing process and I facilitate the nurse practitioners’ efforts to obtain privileges for their clinical practice. I learned about statutes, regulations and business codes during the four years I served on the California Board of Registered Nursing. Former California Gov. George Duekmejian appointed me to the board in 1988.

How did you become interested in volunteerism?
I was born and raised in Syria and lived in Lebanon for two years before my family moved to the United States when I was 14 years old. We went to Ohio, where my aunt and uncle lived. They took in my sister and me since my parents were unable to find an apartment that allowed all six of us to live together. On my first day of school, the students made us feel so welcomed and respected. We were new to this country and didn’t speak the language. The kindness that I experienced from those students and members of the community made a deep and lasting impression on me.

What do you like to do for fun?
I am a people person and love getting together with family and friends. I also enjoy nature, walking through the woods or sitting by the ocean for quiet time and reflection.