The founding father of Turkish Child Neurology, Professor Yavuz Renda (b.1932) has passed away on the 24th of July, 2015 after a long illness. His family roots aided Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in the construction of Modern Turkey in 1923.
Professor Renda established the backbones of our discipline in Turkey starting from early 1960s. This was parallel to the blossom of Child Neurology worldwide.
Yavuz Renda graduated from Ankara University Medical School in 1955. Between 1956 and 1960 he was trained as a Paediatric resident at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Washington University in St. Louis. In 1960, he worked with Prof. Jean Holowitz at this institute, and this was his introduction to child neurology.
Professor Renda then moved to McGill University for a child neurology fellowship with Prof. Fred Andermann. He completed a MSc thesis on prematurity and spastic paraplegia in 1963. He then moved to the newly founded Hacettepe Children’s Hospital in Ankara, where he spent the rest of his academic career. He was one of the two Board Certified child neurologists in the country. The other one was Prof. Kalbiye Yalaz. Together, at the same unit they worked closely knit over the years. They have succeeded to develop a fully functioning department which naturally aided to grow and nourish other child neurology units countrywide.
He became a full professor in 1972. He was a visiting scientist studying epidemiology of epilepsy at the National Institutes of Health between 1980 and 1981. Starting from early 1980s Prof. Renda received recognition internationally.
He was one of the founders of the Mediterranean Society of Child Neurology (along with Shaul Harel and Yehuda Shapira). This Society was later on liaised with the European Paediatric Neurology Society (EPNS) and then to the Asian and Oceanian Society of Child Neurology Association (AOCNA). His membership to the ICNA was cardinal.
Prof. Renda continued to work as the chief of his unit until 1996 when he became the Dean of the Medical School at Hacettepe University. In between he had extra administrative duties such as Physician in Chief (1973-1977), Director, Institute of Child Development (1977-1980), and Institute of Neurology (1992-1995). He officially retired in 1999.
In 1999, he was awarded the Albert Schweitzer prize in medicine for his contribution to humanism by the Polish Medical Academy. Prof. Renda had memberships in various international organizations including the ICNA, the EPNS, and the AOCNA. He was the president of the AOCNA congress held in Istanbul in 1996. He was on the founding editorial board of the European Journal of Paediatric Neurology.
He had vast curiosity in various areas of Child Neurology, but mainly he did his research on epilepsy. Towards the end of his career he developed interest in epilepsy and genetics. And for that reason his last paper was on the description of a new disease with a form of spinal muscular atrophy and myoclonic epilepsy. This condition was identified as an allelic form of Farber disease (Zhou J, et al. Spinal muscular atrophy associated with progressive myoclonic epilepsy is caused by mutations in ASAH1. Am J Hum Genet 2012;91:5-14). He has 62 peer reviewed publications in the PubMed Professor Renda was a great teacher and a spirit to his pupils.
He had deep concerns for the benefit of his patients and their families. He was a considerate man to his colleagues and juniors. He listened to others’ views and gave credit while preserving his own insight. He had an eye to spot the talented. His looks were very impressive. When we were medical students in 1970s, I remember discussing in between us how Professor Renda looked like a loyal, honest and determined sheriff coming from the western movies.
His teaching sessions were very creative. When we were at grade three (in Turkey medical schools are for six years), there was one particular lecture on the white matter disorders of the brain, which he gave in the form of a two hour seminar with other faculty from biochemistry and neuropathology. That is still remembered.
Professor Renda is survived by his wife Prof. Günsel Renda, an art historian, two children and two grandchildren. His principles will be followed by generations.
Department of Child Neurology
Hacettepe Children’s Hospital