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A UCLA Family Affair


By Bethany Powers '11

Published May 28, 2010 8:53 AM


From left to right: Simon, Raffi, Nishan, Vartan, Alene, Sareen, Seta, and Vatche.

When Nishan Tchekmedyian decided to attend UCLA as an undergraduate in 2001, he had no idea the Bruin tradition he was about to begin.

His father and the family patriarch, Dr. Simon Tchekmedyian, is also a Bruin by proxy, as a Clinical Professor of Medicine with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. His six kids grew up hearing about his specialty — oncology — around the dinner table, and would often visit their father at UCLA's Ronald Regan Medical Center or do their homework at their dad's medical office. The Tchekmedyian siblings attended Bruin Woods while their dad participated in cancer conferences at Lake Arrowhead, and knew the 8-clap long before they even understood what it meant.

When Nishan began his life as a student at UCLA, younger sister Alene '10 says he began to romanticize the campus — and piqued (most of) his younger siblings interest.

"UCLA is fully integrated not only into our local Southern California community, but also in the world-community," says Tchekmedyian — who recently found out he will be completing his medical residency at Harvard Medical School's teaching hospital. "This sense of stewardship and broad definition of community also drew me to UCLA, along with the humble attitude of the students and professors at UCLA."

Younger brother Vatche, 25, did his undergraduate education at New York University, but returned to UCLA to attend med school and is currently the president of the third-year class at the David Geffen School of Medicine. Sister Alene is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Bruin and will be attending Columbia University in the fall. Raffi '12 is on UCLA's rowing team, and also plans to pursue a career in the medical field.

But not every sibling decided that UCLA was right for them. Vartan, 23, chose to attend USC – allowing for a healthy family rivalry – but he is involved in the production of UCLA's Dance Marathon.

Dr. Tchekmedyian credits his wife Seta for keeping their family grounded and tight-knit, especially when he worked long hours and his kids were loaded with extra-curricular activities in high school.

"My wife, she acted as the glue," he says. "All of her time, effort and energy helped the kids get to activities and we always, always had dinner together as a family."

Although Tchekmedyian and his wife made sure their kids studied and pushed them to do well, he says his kids were naturally curious and intrinsically motivated to do their best in order to achieve their dreams.

"They are all very different, but they are all competitive and like to excel. All of my kids want to make their mentors and their family proud, and feel indebted for all of the opportunities they have been given."

Vatche agrees.

"I am so proud to be a part of UCLA," he says. "It's really been our home, and we're really fortunate to be here."

If 17-year-old sister Sareen, a member of the elite Houston Ballet Academy, chose to attend UCLA, she'd become the fifth sibling to call this school home. Bruin blue and gold, after all, runs throughout this family.