I was born in 1960 in Çankaya, Ankara. My father was an immigrant from Thessaloniki and he was always proud of being a relative of Atatürk. My mother’s family are Caucasian immigrants, who have dwelled on Sapanca-Maşukiye, meaning lovers village. Summers of my childhood and adolescence has always been in this paradise corner. My childhood in Bahçelievler-Ankara has always been on the streets; and I still meet some of my childhood friends on those same streets.
As a mechanical engineer, my father directed me to work very hard at that age; for example, I won Anadolu Lisesi for middle school with the first degree and then I also won Fen Lisesi for high school by ranking seventh nationally. In my turbulent high school years, I worked both in the crazy political projects of the country and the crazy scientific projects of the school.
Actually, I was not planning to go to any university, but thinking of getting involved in commerce like my grandfather. However, at that time my brother, who was in the medical school’s last semester, used to say “you cannot win any university at all”, thus I wrote a single school in my university preferences. Of course, his school; that is, Hacettepe Medical School, which receives students with the highest score.
I have to admit that at that time I had a hard time in the general knowledge section of the nationwide university entrance exam, but the general aptitude part of the test was easier. My friends who saw the news in the newspaper told me that I got the sixth best ranking in Turkey. The late Prof Altan Günalp, who then headed the center of university entrance examinations and who was also one of the teachers of my brother had told him that “For years, your brother has been the only students who answered all of the questions correctly on the general aptitude test.”.
My years in Hacettepe, which I started due to the oppression from my parents, passed by planning to leave the school at the end of each school year and to join the military service. I finished the school that I entered for the sake of a bet, and when the school was over I planned to enter METU so as to become an engineer. However, when the generals of 12 September Coupe prohibited the doctors from starting other universities; I made my way to Tunceli to do my compulsory service.
There I started an academic adventure when I went to a national congress of chest diseases to make a speech about an interesting patient that I had diagnosed as a general practitioner. The professors in the congress found it quite odd for a general practitioner to come alone and make an ambitious presentation on the podium.
Even my decision about being a neurosurgeon was actually another consequence of my obstinacy: “A stupid man becomes a doctor, a stupid doctor becomes a surgeon, a stupid surgeon becomes a neurosurgeon,” it was said. I decided to be the most stupid, to become a pediatric neurosurgery professor at a level of success that meets international criteria. I have to admit that this was a little bit more difficult…
I have done all my research in my country, so not even one of my articles includes a foreign name. I started working with stem cells a quarter of a century ago, and the thesis that I published is still interesting; even though it has only a few pages, nothing similar has been done yet. Surgical hand tools with international patents, which I have developed and bear my name, are being used in university clinics abroad.
Since I think that in order to be a better surgeon one must have a perfect knowledge of anatomy; I also obtained a doctorate degree in Neuroanatomy, so I have double specialization. I have worked in government hospitals for 6 years and military hospitals for 1 year in many corners of Anatolia. Even though I never worked outside the country, at the age of 33, I was included in the “Marquis Who’s Who in the World” book.
The articles I wrote were quoted in 38 international textbooks; my H factor (which must be at least 10 so as to be accepted as an international academician) is 13. There is even an operation that I did for the first time in the world. The neurosurgeon who won the assistant professorship exam at the youngest age in Turkey is me, and I’m the only neurosurgeon who founded two university departments. My first assistants, who think that I had truly contributed to their education, are now university professors. For 5 years, I also worked as a clinical director at the Bayındır Hospital, which was then the best private hospital in Ankara.
I eventually did thousands of surgeries, received prizes, made invited speeches, established a trauma group, worked in many non-governmental organizations. That’s how years have passed. I retired at the age of 56 and now working as a freelance neurosurgeon at a counseling company which we have founded with my wife Özlem, whom I owe my life; where I now share my 30 years-old professional experience at an international scale. After all these years, there is only one more dream of mine left to become true; to be recognized as “Alara Naz’s father”…