Vartan attended Constantinople's first American missionary school. He joined the British army, serving in the Crimea as an interpreter, but after witnessing the dreadful inadequacies of battlefield medical facilities he resolved to become a surgeon.
Medical training and mission in Palestine
After his initial Crimean experiences he traveled to Edinburgh where he trained as a doctor under the auspices of the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society (EMMS). He married Mary Anne Stewart, a Scottish nurse, and immediately after the wedding he and his bride left for Palestine.
Vartan's work was sponsored by the EMMS to whom he reported every quarter. These documents provide valuable evidence of his struggle to set up the hospital in the face of the unshakeable faith of local people in old wives' tales, leeches and bone-menders as well as their prejudices against Evangelical missionaries.
When he arrived in Nazareth in 1861, average life expectancy was 22 years for males and 24 years for females. The first floor of the house he rented housed the dispensary, with a separate room for four beds. That was in the area of the Old Suuq today. The extended house eventually became inadequate and, after many difficulties, the land on which the present hospital stands was purchased in 1906.
Patients came from Nazareth and the surrounding countryside for medical care. In addition, hospital staff ran clinics in the villages neighboring Nazareth. When the Free Church of Scotland mission wanted advice about starting their own missionary work, they asked him.
Vartan died in 1908.
- "EMMS: Origins and Background". Retrieved 17 April 2013.
- "History of the Nazareth Trust". Retrieved 17 April 2013.
- Marten, Michael (2006). Attempting to Bring the Gospel Home. I.B. Taurus. p. 64.
- Billings, Malcolm (2012). Vartan of Nazareth: Missionary and Medical Pioneer in the Nineteenth-century Middle East. London: Paul Holberton.
- Foster, Prof. Michael (3 May 1892). "Bulbous Irises". www.archive.org (A Lecture delivered May 3, 1892 to the Royal Horticultural Society). Retrieved 16 July 2014.