Medical Education in Turkey

Easier said than done, I have 30 years of experience as a professor. A career as a professor in Cerrahpaşa, an institution where 650 students are educated in average on a yearly basis although that changes from time to time. It is a real privilege. Let me express that I do not make a baseless claim while saying this. According to the TUIK data, approximately 140,000 physicians are on active duty in our country. Assuming that a physician works for 30 years in average, and the number of doctors joining the army is 140,000 on a yearly basis, then coarsely 140,000/30 = nearly 4,700. The number of doctors in Cerrahpaşa, when the quota in the past years is added, is 650. Then 4,700/650 = approximately seven.

Extracting my own years as a student and as an assistant, then I would be able to say that I educated one of every 6-8 doctors in Turkey…

In that case, I have a couple of words to say regarding the status of the medical education in our country, which I should do in the first place.

The political atmosphere during my studentship years between 1979-85 was literally a surreal dream. We were dying by tens on a daily basis. There was nothing else like that in the world. There had never been. It was an abnormal situation with no economic, or historic background. Despite all, we had our professors who were educating us with an extraordinary self-devotion. All of them were real heroes to be admired. Ekrem Kadri Unat, Talia Balı Aykan, Meliha Terzioğlu, Ayhan Songar, Orhan Ulutin, Agop Kotogyan, Aram Suksasyan, Adnan Salepçi. And many others that I feel sorry for as I cannot write all of their names.

I would like to share this anecdote on the value of our professors. I was on my compulsory duty in Ağrı. I was discussing on the factors determining our chances of success in the specialty exam with a colleague of mine who was graduated from Hacettepe, which is another beautiful institution our country has. I said, “The one who knows about Pathology can score 70 and goes to the psychiatry department.” 70 is a piece of cake for us, the Cerrahpaşa alumni. He asked “What was your score?”. I said “70″. He asked me what I studied on. “Only pathology” I replied. We laughed.

Back then, we were closely acquainted with our professors. I was in Ağrı again. There were many cases of parasitic diseases. The issue of cow pie is one of the significant reasons of this case. I was the deputy health director. I called Professor Ekrem on the phone. I told about the situation. I said “What do you say if we solve this by sterilizing the cow pie holes?”. “Oh, no way, son” he said, “Because people there are keeping themselves immune against polio thanks to cow pies.” Alas! Having experienced those periods, we are now at a time where so-called professors claim “there is no need for vaccination.”… It’s a real pity…

There are many memories to be added by the brothers/sisters of mine who are reading these lines… I’m sure they would not allow anyone to speak ill of the professors and education system of those years.

I was graduated in 1985. 33 years have passed. Many things have changed. The pyramid has turned upside down. The number of associate professors and experts has gone down, while the number of professors has had a major increase. Thus, teachers have become unrecognizable. Quantity increased, why quality decreased.

Recently, it was possible for students to finish the school without taking fundamental courses, such as pharmacology, pathology, even anatomy, if they didn’t want to take them. A system called “the committee system” was enabling one to graduate without taking some significant courses. A scandal… Now we have physicians who don’t even know what atropine is, how agricultural pesticide intoxication is treated, etc.

Professors have lost a significant value. Those glorious souls, who gave their lives over the job they did before September 12th, have now mainly become cowardly citizens who cannot leave their personal interests. We have become so.

I take a look at myself, as a professor, who “educated” one out of 6 doctors, I would be thankful if I have a recognition rate of 1%.

But how are these things abroad? For one thing, full-time professors over are thin on the ground. Students have to read at least 100 pages a day. By understanding all of that.

I will wrap it up. This is not the way it should be. It cannot be like this. It should not be like this.

By the way, it is also very wrong to conclude that the Turkish professors are useless. Because Ekrem Kadri, Mazhar Osman were all Turkish doctors.

As far as I’m concerned, all professors must be tested as soon as possible. It is required to make the system compliant with the country’s facts, in other words, to make it classic, and to balance the weights of each and every course.

Being a professor solely by considering the number of publications that one has is not the way it works. It is an absolute must for one to have a good grasp of the significance of the job they do, while putting emphasis on national responsibilities and having a high empathy.

Otherwise, we would surrender ourselves to physicians who think the body has two brains. You won’t believe me, but I also saw that happen. A fifth-year student was thinking that humans have two brains!!!

It’s a real shame…