Armenian youth was enrolled in the studies of Russian and European universities to explore new frontiers of professional knowledge and experience before the proclamation of the first republic of Armenia.
Meanwhile, the Government of the First Republic of Armenia (RA) paid great attention to the development of country’s cultural life in line with the principal challenges, and particularly, to the development of education.
The issue of opening a higher education institution in Armenia became urgent after the private university in Georgia was closed - numerous students from Armenia had been and were matriculated in higher education studies in this university then.
In 1919 May 16 RA Board of Ministers passed a decree in the 4th point of which the following is read: “To found a university in Yerevan consisting of four departments, namely:
d/ physical-mathematical with technical subdivision”
University opening ceremony took place on January 31, 1920 in the Trade school facility in Alexandrapol, as no other appropriate building for housing the university was found in Yerevan. The solemn opening ceremony was marked with the presence of Mr. A. Khatisyan, Prime Minister of the First republic of Armenia; Mr. N. Aghbalyan, Minister of Culture and Public Education; numerous honorary guests from Armenia and foreign countries. Afterwards, upon the commencement of the new academic year the university was moved to Yerevan and was located in a facility that served as teacher’s seminary, being called National University of Armenia; since 1922 – a state university.
Within that period wretched Armenia was in disastrous social-economic and sanitary conditions. The whole population was deprived of the opportunity to receive elementary first aid. Therefore scrupulous workings were conducted toward the opening of the medical faculty.
At the end of October 1920 a resolution was adopted about opening Medical Faculty in the structure of the University – this order was ratified by Mr. H. Ohanjanyan, Prime Minister and Mr. G. Chazaryan, The Minister of Public Education. Yet, this initiative was not executed for political reasons.
On 29 November 1920 Armenia was proclaimed a republic of the Soviet Union.
People’s healthcare commissariat was created in accordance with the decree issued by the Revolutionary Committee of the Second Republic of Armenia on 22 December 1920. By the decision of the latter on November 3 1921, a school, dedicated to the training of healthcare specialists and medical doctors, was opened next to the municipal hospital of Yerevan city. In fact, this was the first building in Armenia to educate future medical personnel. The school curricula were in compliance with the requirements of higher education, yet, there were no necessary means to ensure regular academic process.
The Medical Faculty of Yerevan State University was founded in March of 1922 on the basis of Yerevan Medical School. Dr. Spandarat Kamsarakan, a skillful organizer of public health services was appointed to head the faculty. On the path to organizing the educational process there were numerous challenges and obstacles; namely lacking auditoriums, laboratories, clinical hospitals, medical equipment, tools and devices, relevant manuals; in furtherance, the faculty consisted of 6 persons.
Thus, the anatomic-physiological institute served as an educational base for medical faculty and was located in a building not offering even elementary environmental conveniences. This building hardly housed the chairs of normal anatomy, physiology and histology. The chair of pathological anatomy temporarily operated in the second hospital of the city, and pharmacology chair – in one of premises of Cultural Center of the City Council.
In 1922-1927 the formation of both theoretical and clinical departments was basically finished.
In 1927 a part of the anatomical chamber was constructed; theoretical departments were located here, whereas the anatomic-physiological institute was dissolved.
Renowned Armenian doctors and healthcare specialists; namely, Hambardzum Kechek, Grigor Mednikyan, Khachatur Arkhipyants, Hovnan Gabrielyan, Artashes Melik-Adamyan, Andreas Arzumanyan and other Armenian doctors were among the professorial faculty then. The number of professors was 102 in 1930.
The biochemical building was partially constructed in 1930, where theoretical chairs and institute administration offices were located.
In 1931-1932 the anatomical chamber was completely put into operation housing both the chair of morphology and the chair of forensic medicine.
The contribution of Simeon Lazarev, Askanaz Mravyan, Hakob Hovhannisyan, Vahan Artsruni, Spandarat Kamsarakan, Grigor Areshyan, Levon Hovhannisyan, Arshak Hakobyan, Hambardzum Kechek, Abgar Isahakyan, Grigor Mednikyan, Paylak Hakobyan, Yegishe Shek-Hovsepyan and others was inestimable in the creation and development of the medical faculty.
The faculty served as a strong platform for both organizing public health services and developing medicine.
There were no inpatient departments in the country with respect to some narrow clinical specialties, where students could participate in diagnosis, care and treatment of patients. The largest surgical unit’s bed strength was only 28 in the first republican hospital of the city. Another challenge was conditioned by the key factor of the training – it was conducted in a native language, while there were no textbooks compiled and published in Armenian. Without Armenian medical terminology it was not even possible to translate manuals from other languages. Hence, the compilation of a Russian-Latin-Armenian medical dictionary under Prof. V. Artsruni’s supervision was a big achievement. The dictionary was published in 1924 and comprised approximately 19 thousand lexical units.
17 manuals were published in 1922-1930 for the students of the Medical University. V. Artsruni (“Human anatomy”) and A. Hakobyan (“Normal human physiology”) were the authors of the first handouts in Armenian.
It was in 1927 that the first class of students – 32 persons – graduated from higher medical education institution.
In 1930 in accordance with the decision of the Government of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic and on the basis of faculties of the state university, independent institutes, among them the State medical institute, were created. Dr. Hakob Hovhanisyan, having great experience in management of high schools, held the post of the rector of the state university in 1922-1930.
At the beginning the admission organized had to cope with numerous obstacles accounting for only 136 doctors to graduate from the medical faculty up to 1930. It was only after 1930-1931 that 150 education seats were allocated to the independently functioning medical institute. It is noteworthy that 30% of the students in the faculty were citizens of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran.
Till 1931 the only faculty in the university was medical-preventive faculty.
In 1931-1932 academic year the sanitary-hygienic faculty, and in 1939 – Russian-speaking division of the medical-preventive faculty were opened, because Armenians from all countries of the USSR came to study at the medical institute.
The institute faced greater challenges while overcoming the Great Patriotic War when it broke out. The faculty and students fulfilled their professional duty with honour in the field army and back hospitals. Evacuation-hospitals were created in different cities of Armenia; the majority of doctors were university alumni. 56 out of 85 research works accomplished within that period were devoted to the issue of defense.
Student’s scientific organization was formed in 1947 for fostering passion for research among students; meanwhile respective scientific groups were composed in the university chairs as well.
In 1930 the scientific library was initiated, and since 1958 the publication of the newspaper “Apaga Bjihsk” has been launched. In the future, the institute printing house enabled furnishing university departments and chairs with necessary manuals and handouts.
In 1957 the opportunity of being enrolled in higher medical education was also granted to representatives of Armenian Diaspora: they arrived from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Ethiopia, Iran, Sudan, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Hungary, France, Great Britain and other countries to attain a medical degree in their homeland.
Since 1985 international students have been studying in the University being of Arabic, Indian, Persian, and other nationalities.
Alongside with educating healthcare specialists, the institute has also been engaged in the advancement of the knowledge and competencies of already practicing physicians. Specifically for this purpose the Faculty of Improvement of Doctors was created with respective chairs in 1958, on the base of which Yerevan All-Union Institute of Improvement of Doctors (currently National Institute of Public Health Services) was opened in 1963. In accordance with the decree of RA Government the educational component of this institute was integrated into the educational system of the medical university in 2011 aiming at organizing the education and training of doctors in a single education institution with necessary personnel and equipped with clinical bases.
The Faculty of Paediatrics was opened in 1958 for the purpose of educating and training qualified paediatricians.
The Faculty of Stomatology comprising respective chairs was created in 1961 and in 1964 - the research laboratory (called research center since 1992) was founded.
The text “Soviet Union Doctor’s Oath” was approved by the Decree of Presidium of the Supreme body of the USSR in 1971.
In 1972 the Faculty of Pharmacy, and in 1973 – Faculty of Public Specialties was founded. In 1975 the premedical department was initiated, offering a certain course for people having technical education or having completed military service.
On the occasion of its 50th Anniversary in 1980, Yerevan State Medical University was awarded the order the Labour Red Banner for achievements in educating and training qualified medical specialists.
According to the decision of the Ministerial Council of Armenia on 25 May 1989, Yerevan State Medical Institute was named in honor of Mkhitar Heratsi – eminent doctor and a distinguished scholar in Middle Ages.
During the devastating calamities and the earthquake of 1988, students and teachers fulfilled their civil and a professional duty for the homeland with honour - this very day a group of 200 students led by the tutors left for Spitak and Leninakan to deliver first aid and medical assistance to the wounded. Throughout that period the students also set round-the-clock watch in hospitals in Yerevan, looking after patients.
In 1991 Armenia was proclaimed an independent republic. Besides the objective difficulties inherent to a transition period, in 1992-1995 the country faced severe economic and energy crisis. But even in these hard times, within which not only the economy, transport, but also all the education system was detrimentally affected, Yerevan State Medical Institute continued to exist and even develop to a certain extent.
In 1992 Armenia was in a devastating condition facing war and disasters and it was this period of time when an urgent need for medical officers was observed. In 1994, on the basis of the military medicine chair created in 1992, the Faculty of Military Medicine was established.
Since 1997 the university initiated the process of improvement of professorial faculty for the betterment of professional skills and knowledge.
In 1999-2000 academic year merger and final reorganization of the Therapeutic, Paediatric and Medical-Preventive Faculties with the previously established Medical Faculty took place; the same year this Faculty was renamed to be called Faculty of General Medicine thereafter.
The medical university has registered significant results in founding and fostering international relations. Close partnership has been established between YSMU and various well-known medical institutions of France, Greece, the U.S., Russia, Iran and other countries. As a result of such extensive cooperation worldwide, numerous faculty, student and resident exchange programs have been designed.
Taking into consideration the key role of Yerevan State Medical Institute in training physicians and healthcare specialists and in the development of medicine, the Medical Institute acquired the status of Medical University in 1995 in accordance with the decree of RA Government. It was in the same year that the nearby hospital complex was passed to the ownership of the University in accordance with the RA Government decree (1940 Decree of 15 March 1995) for the training and postgraduate education of future medical professionals could be organised in the best way.
In 2005-2006 academic year the University adopted two-cycle education system to conform to the international standards of education.
In order to advance the education in terms of lifelong learning and train highly-qualified physicians and pharmacists in healthcare sector the Faculty of Postgraduate and Continuing Education was opened in the University in 2010.
The number of students having graduated from the University can safely be characterized as more than 31 thousand so far.
Currently, there are about 5.500 students enrolled in the studies at seven faculties of Yerevan State Medical University after M. Heratsi; 1140 of them coming from different countries of the world. There are over 100 academic departments in the university structure, where academic and scientific activities are conducted – these workings are as well conducted in leading clinical facilities and research centres in Yerevan.
Currently, over 162 doctors of sciences and 481 PhD degree holders constitute the university faculty of 1100 professors. 264 members of the university faculty hold scientific degrees, seven academicians of RA National Academy of Sciences conduct scientific and academic workings in the University. 80 professors of medicine, 171 associate professors and 6 senior research officers are enrolled in the university teaching, scientific and clinical activities.
Aforementioned huge scientific potential plays a key role in the development of medicine and allied sciences in Armenia.