Today’s Doodle, illustrated by Izmir, Turkey-based guest artist Hüseyin Sönmezay, celebrates Turkish doctor, educator, author, and social reformer Safiye Ali who is widely credited as the nation’s first female doctor. Born on this day in 1884 in Istanbul in the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey), Ali dedicated herself to the improvement of women’s education on medical issues and fought tirelessly to protect the health of the country’s children.

During an era when education was largely a male domain, Ali attended the American College for Girls in Istanbul, and there she set her sights on becoming a doctor. She then traveled to Germany on a scholarship to pursue a degree from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Würzburg. A gifted student, Ali earned first place in the senior examination in medicine and graduated in 1921. With a specialization in gynecology and pediatrics, she returned to Istanbul and revolutionized her field when she opened her first clinic in 1923.

In addition to treating patients, Ali led numerous impactful organizations like Süt Damlası (Milk Drop), which worked to provide education and medical services to mothers and young children. Committed to the power of education, Ali wrote multiple books and eventually taught at the American College for Girls. It is here she once again made history, this time as the first female lecturer to provide a medical education to women. A testament to Ali’s renowned stature in the medical field, she also represented Turkey in numerous congresses across Europe. 

Happy birthday, Safiye Ali, and thank you for inspiring future generations of women to practice medicine.

Guest Artist Q&A with Hüseyin Sönmezay

Today’s Doodle was illustrated by Izmir, Turkey-based guest artist Hüseyin Sönmezay. Below, he shares his thoughts behind the making of this Doodle:

Q: Why was this topic meaningful to you personally? 

A: Safiye Ali is a valuable role model who inspired women to take a more active role in the society, and as a result of her efforts, women were admitted to medical schools. As a father of two daughters, I felt very excited and honored to be a part of such a meaningful project.

Q: Did you draw inspiration from anything in particular for this Doodle?

A: I found many articles about her in my research, but she had only a few old photographs visually. Because of that, I decided on a concept based on old photographs.

Q: What do you hope people take away from your Doodle?

A: This is a tribute to all healthcare workers, not only in Turkey, but all around the world who are fighting against the pandemic—just like Safiye Ali used her skill

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