Featured Doctor

UNGAN, Prof Mehmet

Turkey: WONCA Europe executive

Prof Mehmet Ungan is a specialist in family medicine working both in his practice and also in a university department as an academic. He was one of the founders of the Turkish Association of Family Physicians (TAHUD) in 1990, and is also a past president of TAHUD. Now, he is Honorary Secretary of the Turkish Family Medicine Board, a member of the WONCA Europe Executive Board representing its Research Network (EGPRN) of which, he is the vice chair.
Prof Ungan is the chair of the Scientific Committee for the WONCA Europe conference being held in Istanbul, in October 2015.

What work are you doing currently?

Like many others in the family medicine world, I have a very busy schedule. The main part of my day is comprised of seeing patients, both in my practice and in the Medical School, and with lots of training activities. I’m a professor in the Department of Family Medicine, founded in 1993, one of the pioneers in my country. Our department belongs to Ankara University School of Medicine which was founded in 1945 - the first one for the young Turkey after the Ottoman Empire. We are almost 30 residents, two assistant professors and two family physician specialists involved in educational activities. We provide educational programs for first, fifth and sixth grade medical students, and run five family medicine outpatient clinics. Our department centre is located in Avicenna (Ibn-İ Sina) Hospital of Ankara University Medical School.

As well as my position in the university, I have a private family medicine clinic affiliated with a well-known laboratory chain, in Ankara. There, with other family physicians, we have been providing services mainly to embassies, foreigners, those preferring private services for periodic health screening, health screening of immigrants and refugees, and school and occupational health activities.

What other interesting activities that you have been involved in?

I do not know if it is interesting for all, but the rest of my work is all about research in primary care. Since 1998, I have been a member of the European General Practice Research Network (EGPRN), which is a network of the WONCA Europe. We have two meetings a year in different European countries. Creating the research agenda for European Primary Care was one of the collaborative works of EGPRN in which I have enjoyed a lot.

ESPCG (Special Interest Group on Primary Care Gastro) is another group in which I feel comfortable due to having a common research and clinical interest.

For the past four years, I have been attending some of the CDC (American) training, especially on tuberculosis and migrant health, and trying to undertake research on related subjects. For example, I was one of the partners of the European project on HIV/AIDS trainers training; the osteporosis project of International Atomic Energy (for Turkish data), and the European FP/GP burnout study. Nowadays I am studying latent TB infection screening among different migrant populations.

What are your interests in work and outside work?

I am afraid I don’t have interesting things to tell you away from work :-).

My special interest areas at work are migrant health, tuberculosis, gastrointestinal diseases, primary health care research, FM education & training, information & communications technology, health promotion & disease prevention. I have been implementing IT tools with other disciplines to make research on daily work possible through proper data management. In this way I really enjoy looking at retrospective data and improving the service we provide in primary health care, mainly on behalf of the patients but also for the physicians.

Outside of my professional work, I try to make sports as a lifestyle, to enjoy the good quality and taste of the Turkish kitchen, and travelling around Turkey which has endless attractions in each city.

Like many of my colleagues, I am also a dedicated father and husband. I’m lucky to have my wife, who is also a family physician and one of the founders of the TAHUD. She has supported me a lot not only as my wife, but also as a good family physician. We have a 13 year old son and a 21 year old daughter who is studying Law. Sometimes, I realise that I should find more time to spend with them.

You are interested in the history of medicine and you love Istanbul – both seem relevant to the coming WONCA Europe conference?

As a physician I am interested in history of medicine. In Turkey we live on a land which has hosted many civilizations. As written in many text books, one of the earliest known medical schools opened in Datca (Cnidus) in 700 BC and that had an ‘organ’ based approach. Just 30-40 minutes distance by boat in Kos, the ‘generalist’ approach of medicine began 300 years later, around 400 BC. The region is important for the history of holistic and comprehensive care.

You might remember the Trojan war in ancient history (1194–1184 BC) and also the very sad Dardanelles Campaign, the Battle of Gallipoli of World War I that took place in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 - 1916. The mountain Ida (Kaz Daği) is near the site of ancient Troy and the Dardanelles. From its highest peak, about 1,800m, the gods are said to have witnessed the Trojan War. Those living there "stay young" as it is known to have the highest oxygen concentration in the world after the Amazon. It is a paradise of olives and olive oil, which is the food of the gods. Balneology (Latin: balneum "bath"), the science of the therapeutic use of baths in ancient medicine, is still alive there, where also my family has a summer house. One month every year, we go there with our children, to refresh ourselves for the new work year. We are luck to have sea, sun, fish, olive oil, good food, fun and history all in the same environment, near the Ege sea.

My country has many attractive sights to see for those interested in the history of humans and science. As well there are places to be in nature, or enjoy the sea life (sailing and diving), mountain life, plants, caves etc. I have been all around the world, but nowhere is more attractive than Istanbul in my eyes. Walking around Istanbul streets and still discovering the city with endless secrets is unbelievable. Taking photos of the city while travelling in between the Asian and European sides by a regular boat has always been a real hobby for me. Also drinking Turkish tea and eating simit, while sharing some with the seagulls on the boat, is one of my favourite moments.

World family physicians are lucky to visit Istanbul during the next WONCA Europe conference and I hope they may see my Istanbul.

ex oriente lux*!

* out of the East, light