by Prof. Dafin Muresanu, Chair of the EAN Communication Committee
National neurological societies are an essential part of the neurological ladscape in Europe, and EAN currently counts 47 of them as Full Institutional Members, creating an invaluable link between all of these organisations. In a new series of interviews, we are speaking to the presidents of these societies, to get to know a little more about their backgrounds, current activities and relationships with EAN. We continue the series this month with the President of the Turkish Neurological Society, Prof. M. Akif Topcuoglu.
Dafin Muresanu: Could you briefly summarise for EANpages readers the history of the Turkish Neurological Society, and its major achievements at national level?
M. Akif Topcuoglu: The Turkish Society of Neurology (TSN) was founded in 1992, and this year celebrates its thirtieth anniversary. Currently, the number of members is close to 3,500, and eighty percent of the active Turkish neurologists are TSN members. Although there are many smaller neurological sub-specialty societies and associations in our country, the Turkish Neurological Society serves as a platform that unites and brings them together.
The Turkish Journal of Neurology started publishing in 1995 and has a remarkable readership in Turkey.
TSN continues to work for the rights of national neurologists in all their social, legal, personal, scientific and educational aspects. TSN is also the most prominent academic authority in neurology in the country. It organises national neurology congresses, the Neurology Board and center certification. This year, the 58th National Turkish Neurology Congress will be held in Antalya with the main theme of Neurological Intensive Care, and it is international.
DM: The National Neurological Societies are the core membership of the EAN. As President of the Turkish Neurological Society, how would you like to see this cooperation improved?
MAT: I am very encouraged by the current EAN president. I think Prof. Bassetti is as close to us as he is to surely every EAN member country. We have renewed our senior and junior members on the EAN scientific committees immediately after coming to the management of TSN, and we encourage them to be active in the EAN. EAN has very important and critical tools for the academic development of neurology in Turkey. This goes beyond organising scientific academic meetings. We should work to ensure that young neurologists including neurology residents, receive training in advanced centres in Europe, provide more scholarships for this purpose, and facilitate the transfer of academics and scientists between centres.
DM: How is the pandemic and COVID-19 affecting Turkey, and how is your national society supporting neurology care during these times?
MAT: The first half of the pandemic was a complete catastrophe. Most of the neurology services and neurology intensive care units served COVID patients. As of the beginning of 2021, the first shock has been overcome and the situation has gradually improved. I would say it is almost normal now. During this period, TSN contributed by publishing guidelines, being involved in the local problems of the members and even providing self-protective material. We published a comprehensive COVID and neurology guideline, recommendations for patients for any neurological disease and a special COVID issue of the Turkish Journal of Neurology. During the pandemic, members were provided opportunities to update their knowledge at home with approximately 200 TNS webinars. The national congress was held completely online in the first year and hybrid in the second year of pandemic.
DM: Turkey counts many famous scientists in the field of medicine and neurology both past and present. Who in particular would you like to bring to the attention of European neurologists?
MAT: One of the first neurologists in Turkey, perhaps the first, is Rasid Tahsin (1870-1936). An important name in Turkish neurology outside of Istanbul is Şükrü Yusuf Sarıbaş (1883-1962). We should also add Sevket Akpınar (1929-2010), who first described Levodopa therapy in Restless Legs Syndrome. In today’s neurology, it would be appropriate to mention Murat Emre for bringing the mentality of randomised studies into neurology clinical practice and A. Ozcan Ozdemir for his unique contributions in interventional neurology in our country.
DM: What is your vision of the future of European Neurology?
MAT: Scientific knowledge should not remain within the borders of countries. Visas for information are not applicable and should not be. Free movement of scientists and neurologists in European countries should be ensured. The culture of randomised controlled trials should be spread all over Europe. Only in this way, studies can be completed in a short time, and our patients can benefit. The European Union should also provide the necessary financing for these studies. Getting projects from the European Union should be made easier. In this respect, it would be good to apply positive discrimination to countries like Turkey that have been left alone so far. European neurology must use the same language and develop and scale up its strategies globally. The definition of a European neurologist should be established and used to it.
DM: Thank you very much for taking the time to share your thoughts with our readers.