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Exclusive Interview

Influences, insights and Istanbul

Bariatric News speaks to Professor Mustafa Taşkın, Istanbul University Cerrahpasa Medical Faculty, Turkey, and Congress President of the XVIII World Congress of the International Federation for the Surgery for Obesity and Metabolic Disorders (IFSO) 2013, Istanbul, Turkey.

Why did you decide to enter medicine?

I was born in a little village in central Anatolia. There were not enough medical facilities at that time. When I was six years old before even going to elementary school my aunt died during a delivery. This unfortunate situation is the main reason why I choose medicine. I decided to be a doctor and help these poor helpless people.

Why did you decide to specialise in bariatric surgery?

One of my surgery professors in my clinic was super obese individual. In 1988 I was a fellow in general surgery. He had told me about bariatric operations that he has read from American literature. He told me to learn and observe these operations in USA so I successfully applied for a government scholarship. When I was in the USA as an observer in Johns Hopkins Medical School, I attended the American College of Surgeons meeting in Chicago in 1994 where  met with Professor Edward Mason. I was impressed by his knowledge and great personality. He encouraged me to become a bariatric surgeon and told me about Obesity Surgery Journal and gave me some videos.  

Professor Mustafa Taşkın

Who have been your greatest influences and why?

Edward Mason, Nicola Scopinaro and Henry Buchwald are the three pioneers that have been the greatest influence on my career. They have a broad knowledge not only about obesity surgery but also about basic science and metabolism. Also, they always support young people who wish to start a bariatric career. Lately, my son also visited Professor Buchwald in USA and he was also really influenced by his knowledge and great glamorous personality. I thin bariatric surgery is a field that should be continuously transferred from generation to generation.  

What experience in your training has taught you the most valuable lesson?

I think the most important lesson that I have learned in my career is to be friendly with my patients and always take their complaints seriously - a surgeon should not be insistent on doing an operation on a patient who has not really decided. Listening and evaluating their demands is the key point for a successful surgery and follow-up.

Tell us about one of your most memorable career experiences?

I have operated a physician patient 10 years ago and did a Rouen Y gastric bypass. He was a super-obese man and also his wife was a nurse. On the postoperative day 1 his wife caught him eating kebab. Fortunately nothing happened. We have taken out the refrigerator from the patient’s room in order to stop him eating something. This showed me the uncontrollable desire for eating in these poor patients’ world and why bariatric surgery is needed in the frontline for controlling obesity epidemic. 

What are you current areas of research?

We are working on the genetic basis of metabolic disorders at the moment. I am currently working on three prospective projects dealing with endothelial dysfunction and molecular markers related to this event. Also we are trying to build up a new device similar to current EndoBarrier.

Can you tell us how bariatric surgery has developed in Turkey over the last decade?

I started bariatric surgery in 1989 and for almost ten years very few surgeons were interested in this field and we continued doing surgery as a single centre. However, in the last five years there has been tremendous interest in this field. We have tried to promote and educate people organising national congresses and courses in this time period.

Today, there are more than 50 talented active bariatric surgeons who are doing great job in various cities. We always try to support them as a society by giving them the opportunity to show their work at the national meetings and include them in local organising committee of the World Congress. 

What are the biggest challenges facing bariatric surgeons in Turkey, and the world, over the next ten years?

Government policies, some sceptic endocrinologists and physicians and also stubborn insurance companies which still do not accept bariatric surgery as a major treatment option for the treatment of metabolic disorders is the main challenge facing surgeons in Turkey and the world. We need to organise more joint meetings with the internists and insurance companies to inform them about surgical options and come to a consensus for treatment of this epidemic of the century.

How excited are you about the IFSO world congress been held in Istanbul?

I am truly very excited and happy that we can host such a tremendous scientific event in my hometown. This event would bring together surgeons, physicians and researchers from all over the world and bridge them as the Istanbul’s bridges Europe and Asia.

Moreover, I think this congress will be unique in providing young surgeons to be greatly involved in the main programme. For the first time we have organised a special session give them opportunity to express them and share and debate their ideas with the pioneers.  

Regarding the scientific programme, what are the aims and themes of this year’s meeting?

Scientific programme is a little different form the past congresses. We have involved more controversial subjects such as omega loop gastric bypass and other experimental methods, compared to the conventional techniques. Also, for the first time in IFSO’s history, we will have a robotic live surgery session.

Metabolic surgery is the mainstream of this year’s programme. We have also included more basic science presentations, which will help surgeons to understand molecular basis and physiology of the surgical treatment methods of metabolic diseases.

What can delegates enjoy away from the Congress?

There is the opening ceremony and the Gala dinner which will involve spectacular dance shows and live music. Besides this, we have prepared some historic Istanbul tours which delegates or the accompanying persons can enjoy. Istanbul is a both historic, mystic city and entertainment district and this city never sleeps. Delegates can enjoy the cities night life till the early hours and can enjoy Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman culture at the same time.  

Away from surgery, how do you relax?

I play with my granddaughter and do some jogging whenever I can find some time. I also like to write some short stories.

Would you like to make any additional comments?

I thank you for this great interview opportunity and welcome all the IFSO members and surgeons to Istanbul.

To discover more about XVIII World Congress, please visit the Congress website