İstanbul Faculty of Medicine in Antarctica

It is known that Turkey's studies related with the Poles began in the last 10 years. From the beginning of these studies, the health aspect of Polar studies has been carried out by İstanbul University İstanbul Faculty of Medicine. These studies are being conducted under the chairmanship of Prof. Dr. Samil Aktaş, İstanbul Faculty of Medicine, Department of Underwater Medicine and Hyperbaric Medicine. In these studies, mainly, some standards were developed for the medical examinations of scientists who will participate in the Polar studies. Since 2016, the medical examinations of the scientists participating in Polar studies from different cities and universities have been conducted in İstanbul Faculty of Medicine by Turkish National Polar Research Health Standards (TUKAS) under the Coordination of the Department of Underwater Medicine and Hyperbaric Medicine, in accordance with these standards.

In 2016, Prof. Dr. Şamil Aktaş participated in Antarctica expedition, and in 2018 Dr. A. Sena Yumbul Kardaş participated in this expedition. Health services were offered to those who participated in these expeditions and some scientific studies were carried out for the medical purposes.

The 4th National Arctic Science Expedition (TAE-4) took place under the patronage of the Presidency, under the responsibility the Ministry of Industry and Technology and the coordination of TUBITAK Marmara Research Center (MAM) Polar Research Institute (KARE). The team with 24 participants that participated in the National Antarctic Science Expedition (TAE-4) was also examined at the İstanbul Faculty of Medicine. The Expedition started on February 9, 2020 and it was completed on March 8, 2020 and the team members returned to our country. Dr. Seren Kırmızı, who is a professor in İstanbul Faculty of Medicine, Department of Underwater Medicine and Hyperbaric Medicine, participated in this expedition.

"Turkish Scientists Carried Out Many Studies in the Poles”

Prof. Dr. Aktaş pointed out that our country's interest in the Poles, which are common property of the whole world, is quite new compared to other countries. “Our country signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1995 and we just signed the Arctic Treaty. But despite this, there are many studies done by Turkish scientists on these continents.” Prof. Dr. Aktaş said: “Atok Karaali went to Antarctica in 1968 on behalf of Atok Karaali, there are Karaali cliffs there. There is also Inan Hill attributed to Prof. Dr. Ümran Inan. And as a result of her work, Prof. Dr. Serap Tilav's name was given to an ice trough. Turkish scientists carried out many studies in the Arctic. Prof. Dr. Bayram Öztürk worked with the Japanese, Marine Science Institute Assoc. Prof. Dr. Noyan Yılmaz worked with the German and TUBITAK-Kare's Chairman, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Burcu Özsoy worked with the Americans in Antarctica. There are many other Turkish researchers. Even now, one of the most important studies of the United States is being conducted by a Turkish researcher, Murat Aydin.”

"The fact that our Turkish scientists came together and started to do systematic studies on this subject date back to the beginning of 2010." Prof. Dr. Aktas said: "A group led by İstanbul University, İstanbul Technical University and METU did important studies especially about Antarctica. They did a series of workshops, asking questions such as; 'what can we do in Antarctica, what should the map of the path of science be, what should our role be'. In this structure, there was participation from a wide variety of universities. Our Faculty made a road map related to Medical Science. So, only as İstanbul Faculty of Medicine, we took part in this work”. Prof. Dr. Aktas added: "In terms of Medical Science, they drew a road map in three main topics. The first of these studies is about the medical examinations of the scientists who go to this region. And according to these controls, people who will go there will be determined. Prof. Dr. Aktas said: "We have prepared a Turkish National Polar Research Health Standards for this. This standard includes examination of many systems. While conducting these examinations; as the Department of Underwater Medicine and Hyperbaric Medicine, we are already a specialized Science branch for performing medical examinations under extreme conditions. In the past; we were reporting in places like tunnel work, deep dive work, altitude work, pressure tunnel work." Prof. Dr. Aktas said: "İstanbul Faculty of Medicine offers a wide range of consultation opportunities. We have very valuable scientists in every field of science whom we can get opinions from and make consultations. In this respect, we have taken advantage of being a well-established and a large-capacity Medical School. We started a study in the direction that the medical examinations of these polar studies should be in a center, that they should be in our Faculty and that we should conduct it as the Department of Underwater Medicine and Hyperbaric Medicine. In all these expeditions starting from 2016, we have been examining the people who will participate in these studies regardless of which university or province they are from. We also prepare the medical reports. This is very important. There is an isolated environment for the people who will go there, and the health facilities are thousands of miles away; beyond your means. For example, when one of the participants gets sick, the place you should take him to is somewhere far away, a distance like Spain. You should go there by ship, as there is no way to fly there all the time. Therefore, the scientists who will go there need to be healthy both in terms of their own health and in terms of carrying out their missions. Accordingly; we set the standards for them. According to these standards, examinations are being conducted by us, based in İstanbul Faculty of Medicine”.

Turkey Should Have a Voice on the Future of the Arctic

Prof. Dr. Aktas also added: "The second part of Medical Science, of course, is that there should be health services to be provided there. There should be a health person in the team to go there. Another important point, of course, is to conduct medical scientific research and studies, based on Medicine.” Prof. Dr. Aktas said, especially after the interest of the Presidency the studies have accelerated, and they are performed in a routine work now. She said that the major expeditions are made every year. Prof. Dr. Aktaş said, "As a result of these studies, a Polar Research Institute affiliated to TUBITAK was finally established this year. Within this Institute, we carry out the medical aspect of the business. In our Faculty, we are in the process of signing a protocol agreement with the Institute of Polar Studies. After making this agreement, we aim to transfer the medical part of all polar studies and medical studies to İstanbul Faculty of Medicine; to our own Faculty. We hope that we will achieve that”.

Prof. Dr. Aktas pointed out that the Arctic and South Polar Region Antarctica are the common heritage of the world. Dr. Aktaş said that various countries have claimed rights here for a long time and this region has various natural gas, mining, fishing facilities. Prof. Dr. Aktas said: "According to the Antarctic agreement which we signed in 1995, one important issue which was determined was that Antarctica should be the scientific environment. You cannot have weapons here, you cannot perform weapons tests, you cannot do mining, and you cannot use them for commercial purposes. You can only use it for scientific purposes. We also signed this agreement.” Prof. Dr. Aktas said: "Like other countries, our country should have a voice in the Arctic in the future by doing scientific studies here. Prof. Dr. Aktas expressed the importance of this issue with these words: "The only way to do this is to do scientific research and studies there and be there. Strategically, we have to go to both the Arctic region and Antarctica in order to do studies there”.

“We Have Initiated Preliminary Work on Establishing a Base on Horseshoe Island”

Prof. Dr. Aktas said that some countries have more than one base. Prof. Dr. Aktas added: "Some countries only go there during the summer period; some continue their scientific research there all year round. Very important issues can be raised only by being and working there. For example, the hole in the ozone layer was revealed by the Japanese scientists who were working here. If they had not been there and if they had not been able to work there, we would not have known about the hole in the ozone layer maybe for many years. We have started the preliminary work of establishing a base on Horseshoe Island through the work are doing now on that region. When we establish this base, we will be able to work there for longer periods, maybe all seasons or all year round. Antarctica really creates a great field of study for Turkish science researchers. There are very large fields of study from every branch in terms of Living Science, Soil Science, Meteorology, Marine Science. Turkish researchers should show interest there and should go there”.

Antarctica has the most remote, loneliest, coldest climate in the world. Prof. Dr. Aktas said: "Unlike the Arctic region of the North Pole, Antarctica is not only surrounded by ice, of course. But about 98% of it is covered by ice. The thickness of the ice is kilometers long in some places. It is such a heavy mass that it is pushing the Continent towards a bit of magma. So, when the ice mass is lifted, Antarctica will rise, it will become higher”. Prof. Dr. Aktas concluded her speech with these words: "The medical studies and health examinations performed in this Continent have different characteristics than routine examinations. On the other hand, the staying period in Antarctica and the studies which were done there could also change the characteristics of the examinations."

News: Hande Nur OCAK
Translation: Yasemin UĞURLU
İU Department of Corporate Communication

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