Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek was born in 1914 in Istanbul, Turkey. He graduated from one of the most qualified high schools of his era; Kabataş Erkek Lisesi-branch of science. Then, he graduated from the University of Istanbul, Faculty of Medicine in 1938. The last five years of his bachelor of science degree coincides with the 1933 University Reform enlightenment which was a result of the new republic of Turkey.
He completed his Bacteriology Specialization in 1941. In 1946, he became a Biochemistry Specialist. In 1952, he completed his doctorate at Harvard University, United States. Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek is the first Turkish citizen who became a philosophy doctor in medical sciences. He was a Biochemistry Associated Professor in 1955 and Public Health Professor in 1966. His original study in tetanus toxioid gained an international interest and acclaim. He then established and developed a laboratory in the area of biochemistry.
Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek had always believed that to live healthy is a human right. Therefore, he organized all of his scientific studies and action towards spreading good quality health services all over the country. He was again the first Turkish scientist to realize that the need for a laborforce was decreasing after the war at the same time that the population in Turkey was increasing due to medical improvements and developments. He took action in this area after witnessing the dramatic deterioration of Turkish women’s health due to overproductivity and primitive means of abortion. His research included a series of studies regarding health, social and economic problems. Dr. Fişek’s research findings between 1958-60 became a reference for changing the previous increasing population policies that had been popular in the country. These studies were carried out during an era where even a discussion concerning decreasing the population was prohibited.
While exploring common problems in the demography and the public health, Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek attracted attention towards gathering data about mortality and birth rates. During the 1960’s, he examined population control and family planning programs by relating it to women’s health and rights. Dr. Fişek realized that the society as a whole must be persuaded in order to achieve an effective implementation of a population control program so he initiated a campaign that included a study group of planners, wrote numerous articles for the newspapers and eventually gained the support of the religious authorities. Unfortunately, the Health and Social Aid Ministry proved to be inadequate in constituting realistic data about the subject so Dr. Fişek established the “Population Studies Institute” in 1967 and served as its director for five years. During this period he trained many people, established a strong database based numerous studies, and began the research for a “Demography Dictionary” to find equivalent Turkish terms. In addition, he offered public education programs concerning contraception to both women and men. He trained and educated many people from planners to practitioners while preparing the health sector portion of the “First Development Plan” in the area of population problems and the organization of health services in 1960.
Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek knew that it was necessary to collect reliable information for a safe decision-making process. Therefore, he served as the most important motivator and implementer of the “Turkey Population Research” studies that began in 1963. These studies increased the awareness of population studies in Turkey and presented the close relationship between population and health throughout the country. He also worked hard to bring experts in their field from abroad to the Institute so as to assure that the quality of demography education remain high. In addition, Dr. Nusret Fişek provided opportunities for his students to be educated abroad as well. The Documentation Center of “Population Studies Institute” in Hacettepe University was established with his efforts and support and it remains as the biggest and only information source in our country.
Turkey’s 1961 Constitution’s welfare state approach was one of the main determinants for Dr. Fişek’s studies to be both initiated and carried out. In addition, Dr. Nusret Fişek was the architect of the “Law of Socialization of Health Services” (No. 224) which reflected his belief that qualified health services must be available for everyone regardless of religion, language, gender, race, philosophical or political thought. This law (No. 224) enacted in 1961 advanced the country’s position regarding health management and social participation. What was formally a dream for socialized medicine became a reality due to Dr. Fişek’s focus on prioritization of action, preventive medicine and environmental health. Dr. Fişek’s efforts made health services available throughout the country, even to the remote areas. Trained midwives for villages, and doctors and assistant health personnel with essential equipment were provided by health units assigned to districts (first implemented in 1963). Qualified health services were spread to public.
In 1960, Dr. Fişek was requested to perform a Health Undersecretary task as well as director of the Refik Saydam Hıfzıssıhha Okulu (Refik Saydam Hygiene School) where he worked with many health ministers until 1965. He was then removed from office by Faruk Sükan’s ministerialship due to a governmental shift. He then returned to the undersecretaryship by a decision of the Council of State. After another governmental change and job removal by government, he returned to his office once again by another decision of the Council of State. However, all the opportunities to produce work were exhausted, so, on his choice, he removed himself as undersecretary in the Health Ministry. In 1963, he then became the director of the “Community Medicine Institute” of Hacettepe University that he had previously established. The Community Medicine Institute reached the status of being the driving force of our country in this subject and soon gained international respect for the fifteen years Dr. Fişek led it. Through a project implemented with the World Health Organization, “Hacettepe University – World Health Organization Service Research and Training Researchers Center” was founded in this Institute. Unfortunately this Institute was closed due to the decision of University Education Council (YÖK) in 1982.
Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek contributed a great deal to the establishment of the Hacettepe Medicine Faculty. He had always considered the quality of medicine education as very important. In his opinion, although theoretical knowledge is necessary it proves insufficient without practical education. Moreover, it was his wish that all health personnel must complete an adapted education program in accordance with the needs of the health service and the region that health service is going to be given in. As well as that, all physicians should be aware of the health problems of the people, should adapt themselves to scientific technological developments and should renew their knowledge through continuing lifelong education programs. In addition, health planing must be done in accordance with the public’s attitude towards physicians, employment capacity and needs of the country. Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek had many times attracted attention to the inefficiency of physicians being educated in the universities without sufficient substructure, teachers and equipment. According to him, physicians should not see their jobs as only an economic means, rather, they should adopt serving the community as a primary obligation and should get the most out of their working hours. Such an approach would allow health services to be socialized and contribute to the quality of physicians being risen. Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek suggested that a physician is not alone in health services, thus he/she should be considered with his work group and that, team work is an indispensable part of modern health comprehension. As for the organization of health services, he emphasized that it would not be fed by the insurance system, rather on national budget sources and that a sufficient portion of the government’s budget must be reserved for health services.
Regarding health as a human right, Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek defended his ideas without concession. As well as his ideas and actions about health education, planning and organization; he also opposed the violent practices of military takeovers (12th March 1921 and 12thSeptember 1982) and trained students and friends to struggle against these practices. In 1983, he was offered the position of president of the Turkish Medical Association and performed this task for six years. In this period, he transformed this professional organization into a distinguished non-governmental organization fighting for democracy. Being a vanguard for his organization, he was opposed to death sentences and the changing of physicians during the execution of death sentences through 1980’s (oppressive years of military). His stance played an important role in the prevention of execution of death sentences that were court decisions awaiting final approval in the Turkish National Assembly (TBMM). Since 1984, no death sentence have been executed in Turkey. In response to the suit brought against Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek by the Ankara Republic Attorney Generalship (Ankara Cumhuriyet Savcılığı), he defended science, medical ethics, peace, democracy and human rights. Moreover, he opposed the tortures and was deeply interested in the problems in prisons. Therefore, he became the founding member of the Association of Physicians for Environment and of Peace against Nuclear Danger (NÜSED), Kemalist Thought Association (ADD) and Human Rights Association (IHD).
In 1988, science was faced with a charlatan physician who was supported by the government and practiced medicine using oleander flowers against cancer in Turkey. Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek opposed this attitude vehemently. However, he attracted the reaction of a certain sector of the public who found hope from traditional public medicine, herb and those who were cancerous and relatives of them. Nevertheless, he insistently defended science and ethic principles against this multi-dimensional attack and forced government to take measures in this subject. Prof.Dr.Kazım Türker (second president of Turkish Medical Association) supported him strongly in this struggle. Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek didn’t even mention the importance of this opposition as he himself had cancer during this struggle. The other saddening point about the subject was that the oleander practice against cancer was connived by and is being connived by the local and governmental authorities.
The Turkish Medical Association implemented many important programs contributed to public health as well as protecting the rights and interests of the members of the Turkish Medical Association (as this association is a non-governmental organization in the status of public institution), these programs were based on the judgments of the Turkish Medical Association Law. During his presidency, the Turkish Medical Association also founded some expert branches that were bound to the Central Council (e.g. Occupational Health Branch, General Practitioner Medicine Branch, Unionization Branch, Human Rights Branch, Identity Rights Branch, etc.)They also implemented programs and arranged Congresses while constituting equivalent branches at the level of local medical societies. Protecting their existence until today, the certificate programs implemented by these branches are primary examples of widespread effective “continuous education programs in medicine” in our country (e.g. Occupational Physician Certificate Program, Sports Medicine Certificate Program, Driver Course Physician Certificate Program, etc.). II. Occupational Health Congress and I. General Practitioner Congress were arranged that were at that period of time and are still esteemed and still having an impact on today’s practices.
During the presidency of Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek, the Health Profession Unions Consultation Council composed of four profession associations in health sector – again played an important role on the way to constitute a Confederation. At the beginning of this formation, the presidency was performed by Prof.Dr.Mekin Tanker (President of the Pharmacy Association) while afterwards Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek performed the presidency task. This Union implemented congresses one each in both presidency periods. After 1990, it carried its function to the “Profession Unions Consultation Council” (Turkish Engineers and Architects Associations Union-TMMOB participated in that Council) and afterwards to the “Democratic Platform” (democratic organizations and trade unions participated in that platform).
In the final days of his life, Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek focused intently on “human rights problems and medical professional ethics”. He submitted many papers to both national and international platforms. In addition to the efforts of the Turkish Medical Association for the “improvement of prison conditions” and health for all”, he also prepared “Medical Deontology Regulation” and put this matter on the agenda of High Council of Health (connected to the Health Ministry) (he was a member of that council as well). Unfortunately, Ministry authorities took advantage of his advanced illness and didn’t ratify this proposal by playing paltry tricks and was soon forgotten.
He was the chief of the Vaccination Control Laboratory of Refik Saydam Central Institute of Hygiene; a member of European Biological Standardization Union Expert Committee; executive board member and consultant of WHO; university teacher in the University of Ankara-Medicine Faculty; director of Refik Saydam School of Hygiene; Undersecretary of Health and Social Aid Ministry; Dean of Faculty of Post-Graduate Studies at Hacettepe University; Founder Director of Institute of Population Studies at Hacettepe University; President of Chair of Public Health at Hacettepe University-Faculty of Medicine; a member of International Editorial Advisory Committee of the Population Information Program of the George Washington University Medical Center; a member of the Steering Committee of World Health Organization; president of Turkish Medical Association (1983-1990). He also evaluated World Population Research.
Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek received many awards during his life. He was the recipient of the sesquicentennial award of Michigan University due to his studies in demography. As for his studies in the field of socialization of health, he became member of the United Kingdom Royal Academy (FRCP). He also received the Honorary Diploma of the Fight Against Leprosy and Research Association; Certificate of Hacettepe University Academic Service; Turkish Medical Association Service and Honorary Certificate and Turkish National Fight Against Tuberculosis Honorary Rosette. In addition, “Turkish Scientific and Technical Research Association (TÜBITAK) 1993 SERVICE AWARD” was given due to his studies in socialization of Health Services Act and Turkish Population Planning Act; his important services in the arrangement of health services in accordance with modern principles adopted by World Health Organization; his services in transforming medical education oriented towards the community; his completion of a lot of scientific work and training countless number of experts with his deep knowledge in Microbiology, Public Health and Population Problems.
Prof.Dr.Nusret H.Fişek had become a member of the “American Medical Association”, “Harvard Chapter of the Society of Sigma”, “The New York Academy of Sciences”, “The National Geographic Society”, “The Incorporated Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine”, “The American Public Health Association”, “The Faculty of Community Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians”, “The Association of Physicians for Environment and of Peace against Nuclear Danger (NÜSED)”, “The Kemalist Thought Association (ADD)”, “The Human Rights Association (IHD)” and “Ankara Gynecology Association”.
Much of Dr. Fişek’s scientific work has been translated to foreign languages. He departed from us on the 3rd of October, 1990.
On the date he left us, he was still a member of the Turkish Medical Association Central Council. The message he sent to the Turkish Medical Association General Council on the 3rd of October 1990 (due to deterioration of his health he understood that it was impossible for him to attend the meeting) became a summary of his life and the principles he had always defended.