The Gallipoli Campaign – a Turkish perspective

School of Medicine final year medical student, Joel Maamary

21 April 2015

The sacrifice made by Turkish medical officers in the trenches 100 years ago is a humbling and enlightening perspective on the Gallipoli Campaign, according to final year medical student from The University of Notre Dame Australia's School of Medicine, Sydney, Joel Maamary.

Mr Maamary has just returned from Turkey where he attended the Annual Medicine Festival in Canakkale, on the invitation of the Turkish Embassy extended through the Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand. Dean of the School of Medicine, Sydney, Professor Christine Bennett, nominated Joel for this once in a lifetime experience knowing he "would embrace the experience and be a wonderful ambassador for Australia's future medical profession".

Known as 'Doctor's Day' the annual March 14 event commemorates the sacrifice made by the Turkish medical community during the Gallipoli Campaign or 'The War of Canakkale'.

Mr Maamary said representatives from 29 of the 36 countries involved in the Gallipoli Campaign attended this year.

"Gallipoli, while forging the Australian ANZAC legend, also has significant meaning for the Turkish who commemorate the loss of their own, particularly the physicians who died in the trenches helping others," Mr Maamary said.

"We were there to commemorate the memory of those medical personnel who lost their lives in service of their country 100 years ago.

"The losses suffered by Turkey were so grievous, that they failed to graduate a single medical student in the year of 1915. As such, 14 March has become their annual Doctor's Day, a celebration of the continuing sacrifice made by the medical community, and a solemn reflection on those who forged this tradition."

Mr Maamary said the Turkish Minister of Health, Dr Mehmet Müezzinoğlu, outlined the significance of the commemoration for the medical community of Turkey.

"He acknowledged the sacrifice made by the physicians in the trenches, working in impossible conditions to heal and ease the suffering of those injured in battle," Mr Maamary said.

According to Mr Maamary, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, also outlined the importance of health care and its centrality to Turkish culture today saying there was no better example of this than in the trenches of Gallipoli, where medical staff risked their own lives in the treatment of their fellow man; regardless of his country of birth.

Mr Maamary said he was astounded by the grace and love afforded to the lives of those 'invaders' lost in the Gallipoli Campaign.

"The peninsula is regarded as sacred ground, and the Turkish Government has allowed the construction of 31 war cemeteries, an ultimate display of respect for foreigners who perished so far from home," he said. "So often have I heard the stories of 'mateship' from the trenches in Gallipoli, but I've witnessed nothing such as this between opposing nations."

Mr Maamary said the experience would forever be the definition of an epiphany, both on a personal and professional level.

"Learning about how the medical staff were confronted with thousands of sick and injured each day, with little supplies and severe water restrictions, completely transforms the way I look at modern healthcare," he said.

"We practice medicine in a truly privileged environment, where our patient encounters are (generally) controlled, supported and well resourced. The medicine practiced in the trenches of Gallipoli went beyond traditional medicine; it not only healed, but inspired, renewed and displayed the goodness of humanity where a person's flag mattered little, and their life mattered most."

Mr Maamary thanked the Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand and Notre Dame University for the opportunity to live out the School of Medicine's Objects, "where medicine extends beyond the walls of the hospital and into the heart of all people, regardless of background, faith or culture".

"As the 100-year anniversary of Gallipoli approaches, I am filled with an incredible sense of pride and admiration," he said. "Not only for the sacrifice made by men greater than I, but also for the continuing relationship between our peoples, where wrongs are forgotten and respect shines through. It was an honor to stand on the site where this enduring friendship was forged, on the shores of a land called Gallipoli."

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