Dr. Vicken Vahan Kalbian of Winchester, VA, took his final breath on September 2, 2021. Son of Vahan and Satenig, brother of Adom, Torkom, and Vatche; Vicken was born on December 22, 1925 in Jerusalem where he lived until immigrating to the United States and settling in Winchester in 1968. He received his early education in Jerusalem at St. James Armenian School (Tarkmanchatz) and St. George’s Anglican School, and his university and medical degrees at the American University of Beirut (AUB). As a newly minted physician, he returned to a divided Jerusalem in 1950 to practice medicine alongside his father at the Augusta Victoria Hospital, a hospital established on the Mount of Olives to care for Palestinian refugees who had been forced out of their ancestral homes in 1948. In 1952, he met the love of his life, Ada Haddad, who like him, had been displaced from West Jerusalem. After a year at the University of London where he earned the Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, he returned to East Jerusalem and in 1954 married Ada. They enjoyed 65 years together until her death in 2019. The first decade of their marriage saw the births of their three children, Haig, Aline, and Maral. Vicken’s life in Jerusalem in the 1950s and 1960s was busy and fulfilling. He was a well-known figure in the Jerusalem Armenian community and a beloved doctor and confidante to many diplomats, foreign dignitaries, and international biblical archaeologists. This was also a time when his medical career flourished. He became Chief of Internal Medicine and Director of the Rheumatic Heart Disease Clinic at Augusta Victoria and was a consultant at several other hospitals in Jerusalem (St. Joseph, St. John’s Ophthalmic, and Spafford Memorial Children’s) and in Nablus (St. Luke’s). One of his most cherished memories of this period was the medical care he provided to an ailing Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was visiting Jerusalem in 1959.
Vicken and Ada’s lives were upended in 1967 when Israel invaded East Jerusalem. This led to their painful decision to leave a now-occupied city and immigrate to the United States in 1968. Thanks to a connection with physician Dr. Robert Green, the Kalbians settled in Winchester. Although not easy to start over in a new country, Vicken embraced America while also maintaining deep pride in his heritage as an Armenian and a Palestinian. He began working at the Veteran’s Administration Center in Martinsburg, WV, and in 1972 established his own practice (which later became Winchester Medical Consultants). After retiring in 2000, his passion for his patients brought him back to the clinic as a part-time physician at Amherst Family Practice in Winchester, where he worked with his dear friend Dr. Shyama Rosenfeld, until 2018 when he retired (again) at the age of 93. He mentored many young physicians and nurses throughout his career and always relished the lasting professional connections he made. Vicken thoroughly enjoyed being a doctor and was able to make each of his patients feel seen and heard. Yet, his love of medicine extended beyond the clinic. He held appointments on the faculties of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine, and Shenandoah University School of Respiratory Therapy. He also had over 20 publications in medical journals in the US and Great Britain. He was recognized for his excellence in medicine when he was inducted as a Fellow into the American College of Physicians, and when he received the 2002 Laureate Award from the Virginia Chapter of the American College of Physicians and the American Society of Internal Medicine.
While in many ways, medicine defined and shaped his life, Vicken had a wide range of philanthropic commitments and intellectual interests. In Jerusalem, he was a member of the Order of St. John. After his arrival to the US, he began his relationship with the American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), a non-profit organization that helps refugees affected by conflicts in Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon live in dignity. He volunteered as the head of ANERA’s medical committee for many years, working to make sure that much needed medical supplies and services reached those who were suffering. In Winchester, he supported the arts and volunteered his medical expertise to various groups and organizations.
Vicken was a passionate student of history, politics, archaeology, music, and art history. His pursuit of knowledge never waned – even in the last weeks of his life, he was an avid reader and followed current events with great interest. In his late 80s, he embarked on a new career as a historian. Inspired by conversations with his dear cousin and intellectual compatriot, George Hintlian of Jerusalem, he wrote and published several essays in academic venues. He enjoyed nothing more than sharing his knowledge and experiences; and was known by friends and family as a skillful raconteur. Vicken enjoyed the monthly gatherings of his “Convivial Group” for animated discussions of politics and philosophy. His courses on the Arab-Israeli conflict at Shenandoah University were popular as were the annual talks he gave as a member of the Winchester Torch Club. In recent years, he rediscovered his love of bridge and enjoyed challenging bridge games at Westminster-Canterbury where he resided until his death.
His many friends, colleagues, former patients, admirers, and close family members grieve his death. Yet they are filled with gratitude for having known him. He loved and was so proud of his children Haig (Sylva), Aline (Bob Cross), and Maral (Branson McKay); his grandchildren Laurie Kalbian, Taleen Khanoyan (Rafael), Simon McKay, Evan McKay, and Eva Cross; and his great-grandaughter Gabriella Khanoyan.
Vicken lived for almost a century. In that time, he modeled many virtues — patience, compassion, loyalty, justice, trustworthiness, wisdom, and generosity. What his loved ones remember most was his ability to hold these virtues in balance and to live them with utter joy and purpose. All one can say is “mission accomplished.”
A celebration of his life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to ANERA (https://www.anera.org/donate-honor/) or to the Vicken V. Kalbian M.D. FACP Scholarship, which supports undergraduate nursing students at Shenandoah University (1460 University Drive, Winchester, VA, 22601).