“A reformer with an iron will” – Ihsan Dogramachi

March 21st, 2014 | by MuslimScience
“A reformer with an iron will” – Ihsan Dogramachi

By: the Editors of

“I am so impressed to see what a single man has done to change the world around him.” (Jane Schaller, Executive Director, International Pediatric Association).

A seed is sown into the ground. It is nourished with water and sunlight and soon, begins inching up to new heights. Its journey from a sapling to a full grown tree is laboriously long, with the obstacles of wind, water, air and snow, among others, descending upon it from time to time. Yet, it reaches fulfillment, courageously facing all obstacles in its path and emerges victorious. Such is the story of a young Turkish man, Ihsan Dogarmachi, who began with a two-room outpatient clinic in a slum area of Ankara in 1954. It eventually became the Ankara University Institute of Child Health, the leading Children’s Hospital in Turkey, and today bears his name. Seldom are born such men of power. Men, who battle all odds and rebuild themselves along the way.

ihsan dogramachi in his younger years

Ihsan Dogramachi in his younger years

His endeavor to be a doctor from an early age, propelled Dogramachi to search for the best avenues to acquire education, that would aid him in fulfilling his dream. On the advice of his fried Vahit, the son of the former Mayor (Şehremini) of İstanbul, Dogramachi decided to apply to a university in Vienna, in order to pursue his academic interests. His motivation for medicine was so strong, that he actually learnt German before he even got his acceptance, just so he could study in Vienna. As circumstances would have it, there were no vacancies for foreign students at the university and hence, he had to apply to the institute’s affiliate medical school in Baghdad. Gavin C. Arneil, Professor Emeritus, University of Glasgow, Scotland notes that Dogramachi was “A very determined man, he makes firm and usually immutable decisions on which he acts promptly and forcefully.”

Dogramachi’s fuelling ambition, is what led him to success in every phase in life, completing medical school a year earlier than normal. However, he did not let his early success make him egoistic or waver his focus from what was to come later. Always willing to start from scratch, Dogramachi was a firm believer in all hard work and no shortcuts. After working in several degrees under the wing of pediatrics, Dogramachi was given a golden opportunity of a university teaching position in the United States. However, for a man who had given his professional life a fair share of his time and hard work, Dogramachi decided that his personal life was as much an integral part of his existence, as were other facets of his life. And hence, he decided to settle down in Turkey with his wife and children.

As luck would have it, Dogramachi found another opportunity in his homeland, that would eventually be his ladder to success. Prof. Eckstein of the Ankara University’s Faculty of Medicine expressed a desire for Dogramachi to work there. Being the reformer he was, Dogramachi felt that an authoritative position in a center of education, would enable him to bring a shift in the dormant systems of education, that ultimately shape the future. Ultimately, through his persistent efforts that he put in there, Dogramachi was able to establish an Institute of Child Health, attached directly to the Rectorate of Ankara University.

Hacettepe University Campus

Hacettepe University Campus

With time and a consistent momentum, Dogramachi managed to set up an entirely new system of education at Ankara, at the Hacettepe Children’s Hospital established by the Institute of Child Health. Indeed, Hacettepe University initiated a new system, different from that in other universities. During those years, boycotts and anarchy raged in the universities. A certain monopoly regarding the inclusion of students and teachers in the universities, was playing havoc with the systems in institutions. Hacettepe was an exception to this. As soon as the Hacettepe Special Act was in force, the principle of inclusion of students and junior instructors in the administration was accepted, and the monopoly eradicated. This system was so enthralling that it attracted foreign attention from England and Holland, among other countries, who eventually adopted this system in their countries as well. Ihsan Dogramachi’s lifelong relentless efforts were finally bearing fruits, when he was selected as Rector of the Hacettepe Faculty of Medicine, Ankara University. The innovative entrepreneur in Dogramachi was shaken into action, when his mind begin devising a strategy to build a new and dynamic university around the Hacettepe Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, dynamism being a quality lacking in the Ankara University system. His vision translated into the creation of several new faculties being built under Hacettepe, including School of Dentistry and School of Basic Sciences, all accumulated under the ‘Hacettepe Science Center’.

bilkent university

Bilkent University

Having worked as Rector of the Hacettepe University for just under a decade, Dogramachi decided to go back to his profession.  Thus, he accepted a visiting professorship at Paris V University. Having worn many hats during his life, Dogramachi was invited back to Turkey to oversee the reform of higher education. This was possibly, that defining choice in Dogramachi’s life, which led to his name being mounted in solid concrete for eternity. From this time on, Dogramachi proposed several reforms for the educations system, two of which eventually became part of Turkey’s 1982 Constitution, with him being appointed as President of the Higher Education Council and the subsequent establishment of his university, Bilkent University, which became the first nonprofit private university in Turkey and enrolled its first students in 1986.

A pediatrician, Professor, Rector and President, one would assume that Dogramachi had it all, that there would be, possibly, no space left in his life for any other accomplishments. But like they say, nothing is impossible and so Dogrmacahi went on to dwell in the flood of his eventual achievements, that included him being designated as Honorary President, Turkish National Committee for UNICEF, Ankara and then Honorary President for the International Children’s Center (ICC), Ankara. Moreover, the humanitarian in Dogrmachi also delineated itself through his associations with WHO and UNICEF, in various degrees. In these organizations, Doramchi played several roles. Among these, he led special delegations, served as consultant to the World Health Organization on mission to Yaoundé (Cameroon), Ife (Nigeria), Brasilia (Brazil) and Sherbrooke (Canada), in connection with medical and health sciences education projects, and to various other countries in connection with WHO seminars, workshops and other meetings, was a member of several groups and boards including ‘Consultative Group on Maternal and Young Child Nutrition’, ‘Programme Advisory Committee on Maternal and Child Health’, ‘Global Advisory Committee on Medical Research ‘ and so on and so forth. Likewise, his participation in UNICEF also saw him being actively involved in several committees such as the ‘Programme Committee for three terms’, ‘International Children’s Center’, ‘International Pediatric Association’ and the ‘International Conference on Higher Education’ among others.

Ihsan Doramachi was a man of many talents. That is a very understated statement, however, as his over flooded spectrum of the

Dogramachi with a family member

Dogramachi with a family member

plethora of awards that he won during the course of his life, stand testimony to this prodigy. (a complete list of his awards and honous is given at the end of this article).

Abdullah Gül, President of the Turkish Republic, says, “Professor Doğramacı is a unique person who has devoted his entire life and his family wealth to future generations, and to the development of opportunities for the training and higher education of youth.”


List of achievements

Awards and Prizes

•             1978 National Award for Distinguished Service, Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey

•             1981 Léon Bernard Foundation Prize, WHO

•             1986 Christopherson Award, American Academy of Pediatrics

•             1995 Maurice Pate Award, UNICEF

•             1995 Soranos Award for Science and Friendship (Greece)

•             1998 Council of Europe “Peace, Justice and Tolerance” Prize (The other two laureates were Franz Cardinal König and Simon Wiesenthal.)

•             1999 Health and Education Award for Merit (Turkey)

•             2000 Ministry of Foreign Affairs Distinguished Service Award (Turkey)

•             2004 Dr. Jushichiro Naito International Childcare Award (Japan)

•             2007 Turkish Grand National Assembly Honor Prize

•             2009 Lifetime Achievement Award of Excellence in Global Health, World Federation of Public Health Associations

•             2009 Award of the Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences




Over 100 articles in professional periodicals, mainly on pediatrics, public health and medical education

Chapters in Books

•             “Care of Mother and Child.” Health of Mankind. London: Churchill, 1967.

•             “Child labour: an overview.” Child Labour: A Threat to Health and Development. (Iketsetseng Series on the Health and Welfare of Children, No. 1). Geneva: Defence for Children, 1981, 1985.

•             “Ethical considerations in the advancement of medical science and technology as reflected in research in pediatrics”. Medical Science and the Advancement of World Health. New York: Praeger, 1985.

•             “Metabolic disorders,” “The Abdomen and the gastrointestinal tract,” “The genito-urinary system.” Pediatrics. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1969, 1975, 1984, 1990.

•             “Porphyrias and porphyrin metabolism.” Advances in Pediatrics. Vol. XIII. Chicago: Year Book Medical Publishers, 1964.

•             “Probleme von auslaendischer Arbeitnehmer.” Die Kinder auslaendischer Arbeitnehmer (Fortschritte der Sozialpediatrie). Vol 5. Munich, Vienna, Baltimore: Urban und Schwarzenberg, 1980.


•             Annenin Kitabı (Book for Mothers). 1952. (15th ed. Ankara: Meteksan A.Ş., 2003)

•             Günümüzde Rektör Seçimi ve Atama Krizi: Türkiye’de ve Dünyada Yükseköğretim Yönetimine Bir Bakış (Contemporary Rector Selection and Appointment Crisis: A Glance at Governance in Higher Education in Turkey and the World). Ankara: Meteksan A.Ş., 2000.

Revised and updated ed.: Türkiye’de ve Dünyada Yükseköğretim Yönetimi (Governance in Higher Education in Turkey and the World). Ankara: Meteksan A.Ş., 2007.

•             Prematüre Bebek Bakımı. (Premature Baby Care). Ankara: Örnek Matbaası, 1954.

Editorial Activities

•             1958-1993 Editor, The Turkish Journal of Pediatrics, Ankara

•             1963-1980 Consulting editor, Clinical Pediatrics, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

•             1975-1985 Editor, Bulletin of the International Pediatric Association, Ankara


Other Achievements

•             1958 Established Hacettepe Institute of Child Health and Children’s Hospital.

•             1961 Established first School of Nursing at university level in Turkey.

•             1961 Established first School of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation in Turkey.

•             1962 Established first School of Dietetics and Nutrition in Turkey.

•             1963 Established Hacettepe Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ankara, introducing an integrated teaching system in medicine.

•             1963 Contributed to establishment of Atatürk University Faculty of Medicine in Erzurum.

•             1967 Established Hacettepe University in Ankara.

•             1973 Contributed to establishment of Karadeniz University Trabzon Faculty of Medicine in Trabzon.

•             1981-1992 In his capacity as President of the Council of Higher Education of Turkey, contributed to establishment of Erciyes University in Kayseri, Ondokuz Mayis University in Samsun, Cumhuriyet University in Sivas, and Anadolu University in Eskisehir.

•             1984 Established Bilkent University in Ankara, the first foundation university in the country, with the intention of making it a centre of excellence.





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