Turkey beats West in stem cell treatment: Expert

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Turkey provides cutting-edge medical services, including stem cell transplants, to millions including the refugees it hosts, said Turkish professor of hematology.

After celebrating Doctors' Day, Fevzi Altuntaş told on Thursday Anadolu Agency that Turkey emulated Western developed countries in its drive to offer patients high-end medical services.

Doctors' Day is a tribute to the opening of Turkey's first modern medical school on March 14, 1827 celebrated nationwide since 1919 to honor doctors and other medical professionals.

Altuntaş, founder of Turkish cord blood and bone marrow storage bank Türkök and president of the World Apheresis Association since 2018, is one of the architects of Turkey's exponential medical progress.

"Turkey is the rising star of Europe in stem cell and cancer treatment"

"Cancer treatment and especially stem cell research is a source of pride [for Turkey] and is probably the fastest growing medical practice in Turkey in the past decade with the number of stem cell transplants rising from the 200s to over 4600, annually," said Altuntaş.

He underlined that thousands of patients -- including dozens of refugees -- were relieved of various ailments through the treatment in capital Ankara where Altuntaş is chief physician at an oncology hospital.

He stressed that this is proof Turkey has already reached the league of superpowers.

"Civilization is not all about GDP per capita, most countries cannot offer such high-end services even to their own citizens," Altuntaş said of the expensive and hard-to-perform procedure.

He stressed that the number of stem cell transplants carried out in Turkey doubles the average in member countries of the EU and Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Turkey's social state and internationally accredited stem cell labs should be a source of pride, he said.

Altuntaş added that people from all over the world come to Turkey for high-quality, low-cost stem cell treatment compared to the U.S. and Europe, expressing confidence that the procedure has a potential to be Turkey's niche product in health tourism, considering that 1 billion people live in a 4-hour radius.

"The cost is $500,000 in the U.S. while it is around $20,000 for Turkish citizens and $60,000 for international patients in state-run institutions, and only rising up to $100,000 in the private facilities," said Altuntaş.

He acknowledged that this progress was made possible through the commitment of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan, the country's Health Ministry and the Social Security System as well as the know-how of Turkish universities and the investments of the private sector.

Altuntaş said 500,000 donors currently donated blood and stem cells to Türkök -- a cord blood and bone marrow bank that he heads -- already curing patients from more than 10 countries.

He emphasized that its younger pool, and modern equipment were what differentiated the bank from its counterparts.

"Türkök is open to all patients in the world and has everything it takes to become a Turkish global brand in the health sector," Altuntaş said.

Praising the country's leaps and bounds in the health sector, Altuntaş said patients had access to all manner of medicine in Turkey, including for cancer treatment.

However, he added that there are restrictions which remain all over the world for cancer drugs that are in the research and development phase.

Employee-friendly hospital

Altuntaş introduced a project for an "employee-friendly hospital" which aims to minimize problems in the work place and maximize the quality of the lives of medical employees in the hospital he manages.

"More needs to be done at all levels," he said.

Altuntaş said there was nothing particularly burdensome in being both a doctor and a hospital administrator adding that one simply needed to "love what you do".

"I wouldn't let any patient sleep in a bed where I wouldn't sleep in myself, I wouldn't let any patient use a restroom that I wouldn't use myself," he said, adding that all medical professionals should serve their patients sincerely the way they would want their own children to be served.

He concluded by summarizing his philosophy in life: "Nothing comes out if you don't work hard and produce. Just be better than you were the day before."

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