WONCA Europe 5 star doctor: Dr Ali Cerrahoğlu

WONCA Europe has announced its 5 Star doctor for 2015 : Dr Ali Cerrahoğlu MD, family physician of Turkey. Dr Ali satisfies the 5 stars as below (note this is the edited version).  He is married with two children and interested in computer programming, masters track and field (attends national and Balkanian high jumping competitions in his age group) and tennis.

* A care provider

Dr Ali Cerrahoğlu graduated from Hacettepe University Medical Faculty in Ankara in 1984. After graduation, he practiced rural medicine as the only doctor at the Kavaklıdere Health Center in Yatağan, Muğla for three years. Together with a nurse and a medical assistant, he served a population of 10,000 in 11 villages.

During these years, as part of the national vaccination campaign, he implemented the childhood vaccination program and made sure that all of the children in the population were vaccinated. In 1985, he established a system - a first-ever in a health center in Turkey - which tracks patient visits and vaccination records electronically. Besides his routine patient care, he screened the population for endemic goiter.

Following his rural medicine practice, he completed his specialty training in Family Medicine at Ankara Numune Hospital (1987-1990). For the next two years, he served in the Turkish Army as military doctor. He returned to civilian life as a family doctor at the Mother and Children Care and Family Planning Health Center in Tarsus. Soon after joining the center, he assumed the head physician role and directed the center that served a population of 300,000 in the Tarsus district for 18 years.

In parallel to his work at the ‘Mother and Children Care and Family Planning Health Center’, he also ran a private office practice on part time basis and served as school doctor responsible for providing health services to students, staff and teachers at an international boarding school (Tarsus American College). He continues to practice as school doctor at Tarsus American College.

* A decision maker

He is the first family physician in Turkey to attend an international family medicine world congress. (WONCA/SIMG Congress; The Hague, the Netherlands, June 1993)

As the director of the ‘Mother and Children Care and Family Planning Health Center’ he recognized the physical limitations of the center and facilitate the move of the center to a larger facility equipped with a laboratory and ultrasound services. By collaborating with non-governmental organizations he raised funds to start a ‘Mobile Health Clinic Project’ that included gynecological examination services and application of IUDs. With this vehicle, he brought health care services to women and children in the parts of the city and villages which were underprivileged in terms of access to health services for a period of ten years voluntarily. The two-day per week mobile service also included providing healthy life style conferences and training to the community.

In 2007, once again through funds raised with the contribution of non-governmental organizations, he initiated a collaboration between ‘Mother and Children Care and Family Planning Health Center’ and Çukurova University, Obstetrics and Gynecology and Pathology departments for cervical cancer screening and follow up of women who could not otherwise financially afford this service. One thousand women were examined and cervical smears were analyzed at the university pathology clinic for cervical cancer screening. Patients who needed further testing and procedures were referred to ob/gyn clinic of the university.

Since 2004, one of Dr Cerrahoğlu’s core areas of interest has been to promote healthy lifestyle and prevention of obesity in childhood and adulthood. He organized the project “Screening Overweight / Obesity rates in Tarsus schools’” which included height and weight measurement of a sample of 1500 students in 12 schools in Tarsus. Volunteer ‘city council health commission’ members were trained to conduct the field work.

* A communicator

Dr Ali Cerrahoğlu has organized numerous meetings, conferences through collaborations with non-governmental organizations and the local administrations on preventive medicine, obesity, healthy lifestyle, reproductive health and addictions. He provided education sessions for adults and students at homes, schools, and other venues. These sessions were typically organized by non-profit organizations such as city council, Rotary, Lions, and women’s associations.

Dr Cerrahoğlu also acted as the volunteer producer and host of the weekly TV program on health (Güney TV) between 2004 – 2014. The aim of the program was to educate the public about healthy lifestyle and preventive medicine. A total of 280 programs were aired. While in some programs he interviewed specialists from different branches on specific health issues, in others he conducted solo programs on general health topics with live telephone questions from the viewers. List of programs.

Since 2013, he is a columnist in the local newspaper, “Yeni Mersin”, where he writes on general health topics once a week. He also contributes to the Turkish Family Doctors Association web page; and Association of Mersin Family Doctors web page with his health related articles.

* A community leader

DrAli Cerrahoğlu was awarded the “Doctor of the Year” award in 2006. He received his award from the Prime Minister of Turkey for his Professional contributions.

He was the health sector representative of the Rotary Exchange Turkish delegation during a visit to the USA in 1996, and was awarded the ‘Kentucky Colonel Award’ by the governor of Kentucky. In 1999, he was awarded the “Occupational Service Award” presented by the Tarsus Rotary Club for his Mobile Clinic Project and community health services. In 2005, he received the second place in UNDP, Coca Cola and Habitat Youth Association Contest in recognition of his one-year project educating high school students on reproductive health in Tarsus.

Dr Ali Cerrahoğlu continues his volunteering endeavours as the President of the Tarsus Urban Council (city council). The members are composed of representatives from government, local administration (municipality) and NGOs.

INNOVATIVE PROJECTS: one example only

He is the founder of a scholarship oriented fund raising campaign named ‘Brick Fund Project’. The aim of this campaign is to support successful and economically disadvantaged students. In this fund, contributors donate "virtual bricks" of the walls of a Tarsus American College school building. As can be seen in the website created for this campaign (www.birtugladasenkoy.com ), based on the number of bricks donated by each contributor, the contributor's name takes up an area on the school wall proportional to the amount of money he/she donates. Contributions made to date reached 1.8 million dollars.

* A team member

Dr Ali Cerrahoğlu has been a role model as a team member in all of his pursuits. With his positive energy, he was able to mobilize team members as a school doctor and in projects involving family planning, mobile health services, as well as in community services. As an effective and motivating leader, he has succeeded in making all parties an active and contributing participant of these activities.