The congress was an assembly of 287 participants from 20 countries, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe. It offered the first opportunity for telemedical users and researchers from Armenia to participate in presentations given by an international body of experts. Attendees, in turn, were able to offer insights developed through their own studies and personal experiences and then garner feedback from global leaders with decades of experience and history in the field.
The choice to hold such a conference in Armenia is significant, as it has been the focus of telemedical science since being struck by a massive earthquake in 1988 which killed over 50,000 people and left many more homeless. At the time, NASA was investing in the nascent science of telemedicine, looking to develop technologies to provide emergency medical care to astronauts.
Armenia was part of the Soviet Union at the time of the earthquake, but was opened to humanitarian aid from the West in light of the scope of the disaster. NASA’s contribution toward coordinating this remote medical assistance became known as the “Space Bridge to Armenia.” The converging of telemedical science on Armenia fostered international cooperation, offered an important means of testing new technologies and procedures, and demonstrated the capacity for telemedicine to bring medical expertise to patients in remote or dangerous locations.