In Memoriam: Kim Burchiel, MD, Remembers Neurosurgeon Yucel Kanpolat, MD
A pioneer in the field of functional and stereotactic neurosurgery
Yucel Kanpolat, MD (1941–2016)—With the recent passing of Yucel Kanpolat on September 17, 2016, the neurosurgery community lost a pillar of science and clinical practice; a pioneer in the field of functional neurosurgery. Yucel was a dear friend to many in our field, and was an international figure, linking Turkey to almost every country in the world. Neurosurgery has lost a very special surgeon, scientist and humanitarian.
Dr. Kanpolat was born in Sivas, Turkey, and graduated from Gazi High School in Ankara in 1959. He attended Ankara University School of Medicine, obtaining his MD in 1965. He worked in the Turkish public health service from 1965 to 1968, and then went on to residency in the Department of Neurosurgery, Ankara University, from 1968 until 1973. He served as chief of the Haydarpasa Military Neurosurgery Department, Istanbul, during his military service from 1974 to 1975, whereupon he was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery, Ankara University, ascending to full Professor in 1989.
His influence in functional and stereotactic neurosurgery, particularly pain surgery, is renowned and will be lasting. He changed our thinking with regard to minimally invasive destructive procedures for pain through his thorough knowledge of anatomy and physiology. He literally invented minimally invasive image-guided ablative pain surgery—anterolateral cordotomy for somatic pain and trigeminal tractotomy/nucleotomy for facial pain. Many of us owe him a great debt for his teaching and clinical insights.
I first met Yucel almost 30 years ago at an Istanbul Congress and was immediately taken by his energy, curiosity, and broad interests in science and medicine. In 1998 I was honored to join him in at the University of Ankara as the Nurham Avman Lecturer where I had a chance to observe him in his practice, in an academic setting. He was clearly a master technician, but more importantly, he treated each patient in a kind and direct manner, devoid of ostentation.
His scholarly achievement is notable, through 176 international publications, 92 invited lectures, 48 presentations in international congresses, and multiple visiting professorships and named lectures worldwide. Other notable professional highlights included his service as president of the Turkish Neurosurgery Society from 1995 to 1996, and as president of the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TUBA) from 2008 to 2012. He was executive member of the WFNS, ENS, WFFSN, EANS, and a valued member of many journal editorial boards. He was the recipient of numerous awards including the Science Award of Ankara University, the Turkish Neurosurgery Society Excellence Service Award (2006), the OHSU Paxton International Professorship (2006), and the Popular Bilim Medical Science Prize, (2006).
He had a profound interest in history and archeology, and was an avid student of the origins of ancient civilizations, many of which were founded in Turkey. I had the opportunity to visit many historic sites with him in Turkey, including several trips to Ephesus, Aspendos, Perge, Antalya, Bursa, Iznik, Aphrodisias, and a special TUBA project, the Suleymaniye Mosque madrasa. This brief travelogue simply serves to highlight that Yucel was a man of wide interests, with a deep passion for the history of mankind.
Through his many contributions, Dr. Kanpolat has left a lasting legacy of knowledge and teaching. Moreover, he will be remembered as an exemplar of the kind of human being that we all aspire to be.
Kim J. Burchiel, MD