“Lest We Fall”: Remembering Olcay Neyzi ACG 46

Contributed by Sinan Hiçdönmez RC 15

Olcay Neyzi was neither the first pediatrician to come out of RC/ACG, nor the last, but she was the one who made the greatest impact in a trailblazing life, leaving behind authoritative reference textbooks, growth charts used throughout Turkey, and numerous pediatricians who follow her lead.

Neyzi studied medicine at Istanbul University Faculty of Medicine, graduating in 1954. She did her pediatrics residency at Haseki and became an associate professor of pediatrics at Istanbul University in 1960. Her landmark Rami neighborhood community study on child health, which included the first version of her growth charts, was published in 1966. The following year she became a professor of pediatrics at Istanbul University Istanbul Faculty of Medicine and became one of the founders of the Çocuk Sağlığı Derneği (Child Health Association).

Neyzi went on to serve as head of pediatrics at Istanbul Faculty of Medicine, head of the social pediatrics and pediatric endocrinology departments and founding head of the Istanbul University Child Health Institute. Even after her retirement in 1994 she continued to be involved in her discipline, receiving the Eczacıbaşı Medical Award of Honor in 2017. Neyzi was active all the way into her eldest ages, working even on the day she breathed her last breath.

When this inspiring physician passed away on February 3, 2022, she left behind a legacy worthy of a heartfelt commemoration on the traditional Physicians’ Day of March 14, organized by Gülbin Gökçay RC 76, head of both the Child Health Institute and the Child Health Association, Zeynep Karakaş, head of pediatrics at Istanbul Faculty of Medicine, pediatric endocrinologist Firdevs Baş and pediatric nephrologist Bağdagül Aksu. The commemoration was attended by Neyzi’s family, colleagues, close friends and students of Istanbul University Istanbul Faculty of Medicine.

Gökçay started the commemoration with a minute of silence for Neyzi, whom she described as “the professor of professors, an exceptional person who fought on the public health front of our republic.” The first speech, titled “My Mother’s Suitcase” was delivered by her son Mehmet Ali Neyzi. Of the many “presents” inside the suitcase, Mehmet Ali Neyzi’s first pick was the importance of hard work, best epitomized by the phrase “Durmayalım, Düşeriz” (We Shall Not Stop, Lest We Fall) which also became the title of Neyzi’s autobiography. Neyzi’s speech portrayed his late mother as an ardent academic, a close confidante, a loving grandmother, a punctual person who had no time to waste even in her leisure time.

Another speaker, Feyza Darendeliler RC 74, a pediatric endocrinologist at Istanbul Faculty of Medicine and one of the editors of the most recent incarnation of Neyzi’s textbook and magnum opus Pediyatri (Pediatrics), stated “Olcay Neyzi made history as one of the first pediatric endocrinologists not only in Turkey but also in the world.”

A striking moment of the commemoration came through the words of Ülker Öneş: “[Neyzi] was very lucky, she had graduated from such a school that gave a good language education and a wide-ranging culture as the Arnavutköy College for Girls.”

Neyzi is survived by son Mehmet Ali Neyzi and daughter-in-law Fahrünnisa Yıldızalp Neyzi both RC 76, daughter Leyla Neyzi RC 78, granddaughter Zülal Neyzi Yıldız RC L3 03 and her husband Emre Serhad Yıldız RC 00.

The author would like to thank Gülbin Gökçay RC 76 for inviting him to the commemoration, for her support in proofreading this article, and for the photos.

Published July 2022

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