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American Hospital

The American Hospital, officially known as the VEHBI KOÇ FOUNDATION AMERICAN HOSPITAL, was founded in 1920 in Istanbul, before being taken over by the Vehbi Koç Foundation (VKV) and established as a private medical institution in 1995.
The history of American hospitals in Turkey goes back to the nineteenth century. Beginning in the mid-century, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) founded dispensaries and hospitals in towns and cities with missionary centers, such as Adana, Merzifon, Sivas, Talas (Kayseri), Harput, Van, Mardin and Diyarbakır; these were established close to schools and were typically referred to as American hospitals. According to some sources, there were nine American hospitals in Anatolia in 1914.
Istanbul’s first American Hospital was founded in 1905 by Dr. Thomas (Spees) Carrington (1868-1940), who was affiliated with the ABCFM. The American Hospital of Constantinople and School of Nursing Studies in Üsküdar, founded by Dr. Carrington—formerly employed at the hospital in Merzifon (1898-1904)—operated under the supervision of a USA-based committee. The purpose of this organization was to provide the poor with free medical and surgical services and to train nurses. However, Dr. Carrington struggled to acquire the funds required to keep the hospital running, leaving the ABCFM in 1909 and returning to the USA. The hospital was subsequently closed.
Efforts to reestablish an American Hospital in Istanbul began following the posting of Mark L. Bristol, admiral of the US Eastern Mediterranean Fleet, to Istanbul in 1918, where he assumed the role of High Commissioner in an attempt to “resolve ongoing conflicts and protect American interests”. To all intents and purposes, Admiral Bristol also served as the US ambassador to Turkey during this period.
The concept of founding an American Hospital in Istanbul was discussed during a meeting in Admiral Bristol’s office on November 8, 1919, after which planning began in earnest. American businessmen held a meeting with a number of organizations and representatives of foundations, such as the American Red Cross (ARC), the Near East Relief Committee (NERC), the American Board for Foreign Missions, Constantinople College for Girls (CCG) and the US Consulate, with the aim of securing their places as founding members and receiving support in this enterprise. In the meeting, the decision was made to build a school of nursing at once due to the total lack of nurses in Turkey at that time. The hospital was to be directed by an advisory board composed of representatives from the five American foundations mentioned above.
On May 20, 1920, the American Hospital opened its outpatient clinic; on August 20, 1920, the American Hospital of Constantinople—as it was then known—held its official opening. The hospital was located in a wooden villa at 67 Tramvay Yolu, Çarşıkapı Caddesi. The villa was owned by the son-in-law of Sultan Abdülaziz, Mehmed Şerif Pasha. The villa comprised three stories, featuring a garden surrounded by a wall measuring six meters in height and which contained several small annexes. Patients’ families were permitted to bring their horses and donkeys into the garden and were able to set up camp for several days until the patient recovered.

Admiral Bristol clearly stated the Hospital’s aims in the speech he gave at its opening, namely to provide all races, religions and peoples with health services on an equal basis; to establish a school of nursing to train nurses in order to attend to Turkey’s urgent needs in this area and to ensure the provision of American-standard health services to Americans, Turks and all peoples. The hospital entered into operation with 78 beds and five nurses obtained from the US Navy and the American Red Cross; Dr. Alden R. Hoover and Annie E. Rothrock were appointed to the roles of chief physician and chief nurse respectively. The first class to enter the American Hospital School of Nursing comprised 12 students, who began their studies in September 1920.

The changing names of the American Hospital

While its ideals and spirit remain constant, the hospital’s official name has changed considerably over the course of history. The American Hospital was founded as the American Hospital of Constantinople by Admiral Mark L. Bristol on August 20, 1920, bearing this name through the final years of the Ottoman sultanate and the early years of the Turkish Republic until 1931. In 1930, in the era of the Turkish Republic, the decision was taken to replace the title Constantinople with Istanbul, the city’s Turkish name. For this reason, the organization became known as the American Hospital of Istanbul. In 1945, following the death of its founder Admiral Mark L. Bristol, the hospital was renamed the Admiral Bristol Hospital in his memory. ... However, this name was never accepted by the people of Istanbul and thus the hospital was once again renamed the American Hospital of Istanbul in 1968. Ultimately, when the Vehbi Koç Foundation assumed ownership of the hospital in 1994, it became known by its official title, the Vehbi Koç Foundation American Hospital and still bears the name to this day.
Warren H. Winkler and George D. Rountree, American Hospital (1920-2007), Amerikan Hospital Publications, Istanbul, 2012, p. 9

In 1923, when the building was deemed to have insufficient capacity for the hospital’s quickly growing staff and increasing scope of activities, the American Hospital moved into the former site of the German Hospital on Sıraselviler Caddesi in Taksim, once used by the British occupying forces. In 1927, the hospital’s advisory board became board of managers. In the first meeting of the board of directors, comprising 12 American members all domiciled in Istanbul, the decision was taken to create a board of trustees in New York in an effort to open an official agency in the USA and raise money for the hospital.
After Dr. Hoover returned to the USA for personal reasons, Dr. Wilfred M(cIlvaine) Post assumed the role of chief physician. Dr. Post returned to the USA in 1926 following the death of his wife and Dr. Lorrin Andrews Shepard took up the role. After the tenancy period at the German Hospital expired, the American Hospital moved into a four-story apartment block at 19 Silahhane (Teşvikiye) Caddesi on March 12, 1928. The new site of the nursing school was directly across the street at the Bedrettin Bey Apartments.
On June 17, 1931, the government agreed to recognize the American Hospital as an organization with land-ownership and construction rights. In New York, on October 30 of the same year, the American Hospital was formally registered as a non-profit organization under the name American Hospital of Istanbul, Inc. Resources secured by the US drive for donations played a big role in reducing the running deficits, particularly during the Great Depression in the early 1930s. In March 1938, construction was able to begin on a new hospital building in Nişantaşı thanks to funds secured in the same way. The new building was completed in less than two years and opened for business on November 14, 1939. In 1945, the names of the hospital and the school of nursing were changed respectively to the Admiral Bristol American Hospital and the Admiral Bristol Nursing School in memory of their founder. The Nursing School was built next to the hospital, opening in 1950. The American Hospital Philanthropic Association was founded in 1956.
Following the retirement of Dr. Shepard, who had been the chief physician since 1927, Dr. Wilson Swanker took up the post at the beginning of 1957. In 1962, Dr. Rolf Lium took up the post of chief physician. In July 1964, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provided 250,000 dollars of aid to support works carried out to modernize and expand the hospital. In the same year, the government of the Turkish Republic approved plans to increase the hospital’s bed capacity to 250. In 1966, Vehbi Koç donated 70,000 dollars to set up a cancer (cobalt) pavilion within the hospital. Following Dr. Lium’s departure from his post due to personal and family reasons, Dr. Warren H. Winkler assumed part-time responsibility for the roles of chief physician and director in August 1967, switching to full-time the following year.
Lila Acheson Wallace, owner of Reader’s Digest, provided the American Hospital with a donation of 540,000 dollars to fund the construction of a six-story building; work began in July 1971 and the Barclay Acheson Building opened in late March 1973. The new foyer building, financed by USAID, opened in April 1983. At the end of January 1985, work began on a ten-story outpatient building, also funded by USAID. In May 1985, Eli Acıman was elected director of the board of managers, becoming the first Turkish citizen to hold the post. A collaborative practice agreement was signed with Houston Methodist Hospital in the US the same year.
The new outpatient building opened in July 1988. Following Eli Acıman’s departure from his post in 1989, Rahmi M. Koç was elected to the position. The American Hospital Foundation was founded in March of the same year. November saw the opening of Turkey’s first Preventative Healthcare Center.
In 1990, changes were made to the hospital’s governing structure and Dr. Winkler continued in his role as chief physician while George D. Rountree assumed the role of administrative director (in 1992 he became general director and CEO). The Vehbi Koç Cancer Center was opened in June of the following year. The Semahat Arsel Nursing Education and Research Center (see SANERC) was opened as part of the American Hospital in 1992. Following Dr. Winkler’s departure, Dr. Engin Bazmanoğlu assumed the vacant role of chief physician in 1995.
The VKV assumed ownership of the hospital in order to resolve its ever-growing financial problems. Administrative powers of American Hospital of Istanbul, Inc. were legally transferred to the VKV when the agreement was signed on June 20, 1994. The agreement included conditions stipulating, among other things, that the hospital property was not to be sold or transferred and that it would continue to be used as a hospital for years to come. Following sale and transfer, all legal rights and powers formerly belonging to the New York Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors in Istanbul were transferred to the VKV Board of Directors. The hospital and the Admiral Bristol Nursing School were formally transferred to the VKV on February 27, 1995. The name of the hospital was changed to the Vehbi Koç Foundation American Hospital.

The neighboring Güzelbahçe Hospital was purchased in November 1995 with the aim of securing sufficient space for an expansion of the American Hospital and School of Nursing. Güzelbahçe Hospital was renovated and connected to the main hospital building by a corridor before being re-opened as the Semahat Arsel and Dr. Nusret Arsel Building; several of the units in the American Hospital moved into this new building. The School of Nursing and SANERC were taken over by Koç University in 1999 and 2004 respectively.
In 1998, the American Hospital became a member of the American Hospitals Association. An agreement was signed that same year by the American Hospital, New York Presbyterian Hospital and the medical faculties of Cornell and Columbia universities, covering collaboration on topics such as medical training and patient care, as well as exchanges for doctors, directors, nurses and students.
The MedAmerican Outpatient Clinic (now MedAmerican Medical Center[*]) opened in Kadıköy in December 1997 with the aim of providing medical services on behalf of the American Hospital on Istanbul’s Asian side. Based in Tophane, the Italian Hospital was leased in March 1998 following an agreement between the Italian Consulate and the American Hospital and, following renovation work funded by contributions from the Agnelli Foundation, was reopened as the Giovanni Alberto Agnelli Building, a health center focusing primarily on providing cancer diagnosis and treatment. The hospital opened on November 18, 1999, however, it was closed again due to new legal barriers and did not reopen until July 2005. The Italian Hospital closed in August 2006 following financial troubles.
The American Hospital’s new wing, constructed on the former site of the School of Nursing, opened in October 1999. The Güzelbahçe Hospital building was demolished in 2000; work was completed on its replacement, the Semahat and Dr. Nusret Arsel School of Nursing building, in 2002.
In October 1999, George D. Rountree departed from his role as general director, continuing his work as business development advisor and director. Talât Pekelman assumed the role of director general. As the hospital’s financial problems worsened, changes were made to senior management and, in May 2001, Dr. Serdar Savaş was appointed acting general director. But in the face of growing financial problems, Dr. Savaş departed from his post in October of the same year and was replaced by George D. Rountree. Dr. Ömer Arıkan assumed the role of chief physician. The “culture of profitability” program, which was gaining legitimacy at the hospital, soon bore fruit, making important progress towards overcoming financial issues.
In 2002 and 2005, the hospital received accreditation papers documenting conformance to Joint Commission International (JCI) standards. (The JCI papers were renewed for the fifth time in 2015.) In March 2005, the American Hospital became the first private hospital to receive ISO 14001 accreditation, valid for three years. The ISO 9001 it had previously received was also renewed for a further three years.
Zekeriyaköy Family Medical Center opened in March 2003 with the aim of providing health services to people living in Zekeriyaköy, Kilyos, Maslak, Sarıyer and the surrounding districts and continued to run until 2014.
Following the departure of George D. Rountree from the role of general director in late 2006, Dr. Evren Keleş took his place. Dr. Keleş also took on the role of chief physician in 2008.
The American Marine Outpatient Clinic which was opened by the VKV in Göcek in conjunction with the American Hospital in August 2007—in cooperation with Göcek Municipality and the DenizTemiz Association/TURMEPA—ceased operations at the end of 2013. In July 2018, Bodrum American Hospital has opened.
Today (2018), the American Hospital is a full-fledged health organization providing health services to over 220,000 patients every year, presiding over a 60,500 square meter site, featuring 261 rooms, 41 of which are reserved for intensive care, as well as 31 observation beds and 12 operating rooms. Since 2014, Dr. Erhan Bulutcu has held the role of general director and İsmail Bozkurt the role of chief physician.

The American Hospital in the words of Rahmi Koç
My late father worked for many years as a dealer for Socony Vacuum (Mobil), so he was always close friends with the directors.
The board of directors of the American Hospital was composed of general managers from foreign firms such as Mobil, which was based in Istanbul, as well as Pan American, Uniroyal, J. P. Morgan, American Express and the American consul general.
One day, the director of Mobil asked Vehbi Koç to join the board of directors of the American Hospital, to which he replied, “I have neither the language skills nor the time, but my son Rahmi M. Koç could take my place”. And thus, I took up my role on the board of directors of the American Hospital in 1966. To this day, I continue to take a close interest in the hospital and its concerns.
As a general rule, the chairman of the board of directors would be chosen from among foreign candidates. In 1985, the advertising agent Eli Acıman became the first Turkish chair of the board of directors and in 1989 I assumed the role after him.
The American Hospital’s Board of Trustees was based in New York, together with a fund, USAID (United States Agency for International Development) also provided the hospital with financial support every year. Aside from this, the money to purchase equipment, etc. was provided by the fund in New York. As living standards in Turkey rose, the funds provided by USAID decreased year on year and ultimately stopped.
The hospital continued to run for a while on the donations it had received within Turkey and with the help of the New York fund. Following a case brought against it in New York, the fund—which had lasted for years—was all but spent and went bankrupt. As a result, the Vehbi Koç Foundation took over the American Hospital in 1994, due largely to my insistence.
At the end of the agreement made with the Board of Trustees in New York, several strict conditions—stipulating that the hospital’s property could not be sold or transferred and that it would remain in use as a hospital for years to come—were accepted and the hospital was transferred to the Vehbi Koç Foundation.
Since then, the Vehbi Koç Foundation has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the hospital. It purchased the hospital next door, carried out new construction work, modernized the equipment and brought in young, dynamic doctors. It also took over the School of Nursing, bringing the hospital into the present day.
Koç University took over the administration of the School of Nursing and the Semahat Arsel Nursing Education & Research Center in 1999 and 2004 respectively. In 2009, the hospital became a joint-stock company.
Winkler and Rountree, American Hospital (1920-2007), p. 7
The American Hospital Art Gallery, “The Operation Room”
“The Operation Room” which has been in place in the American Hospital since 2008 is the first art gallery to be established within a hospital in Turkey. The gallery space, covering an area of 150 square meters, hosts works by local and foreign artists from different branches of the art world.

Exhibitions Opening at the Gallery*

Emissaries of Divine Power: Medical Instruments in Ancient Medicine (March-May 2008)

Erdoğan Yalav

Camouflage (June-September 2008)

Ekrem Yalçındağ

Daylife (November-December 2008)

Sandra Mann

Still Men Out There (February-April 2009)

Björn Melhus

Material Picture (May-June 2009)

Various Artists

Peter Kogler Exhibition (September-October 2009)

Peter Kogler

New Approaches (December 2009-February 2010)

İzzet Keribar

A/B (February-March 2010)

Selçuk Artut

Vacuum (April-June 2010)

Metehan Özcan

Shoot (June-August 2010)

Karolin Fişekçi

No Where (October-November) 2010)

Burcu Perçin

Professore (December 2010-January 2011)

Stephane Graff

Minus Feld (February-March 2011)

Refik Anadol

Looking back at you (May-July 2011)

Gözde Türkkan

Undefined (July-September 2011)

Engin Konuklu

I Discovered Joy on the Road (November-December 2011)

Akgün Akova

Spatial memory (February-March 2012)

Canan Dağdelen

Wild is the Wind (April-May 2012)

Hayal İncedoğan

deus ex machina (November-December 2012)

Korhan Karaoysal

Untitled (March-April 2013)

Osman Kerkütlü

Borrowed Togetherness (December 2013-January 2014)

Eda Gecikmez

A Moment in the Shadow of the Image (April-May 2014)

Burcu Orhon

Curious Moments (September-November 2014)

Ferhat Özgür

Turnaround (January-March 2015)

İrem Sözen

Placebo Effect (April-May 2015)

Ali Cabbar

In Fog: Floating Glaciers and Wild Boar (June-August 2015)

Ülgen Semerci and Burcu Yağcıoğlu

Savage Humanchine (December 2015-February 2016)

Bora Başkan

Sami, the beautiful angel (March-April 2016)

Sami Baydar

Drawings from Sainte-Anne (June-August 2016)

Fikret Muallâ

Aesthetical Interference (November 2016-January 2017)

Özgül Arslan

The Ambiguous Whiner (March-May 2017)

Metin Üstündağ

Surface Heap or Metal Mountain (June-August 2017)

Furkan Temir

in-finite (October-December 2017)

Julie Upmeyer

Oblique (February-April 2018)

Pavlos Nikolakopoulos

Not/Not There (June-July 2018)

Kadir Has University Department of Visual Communication Design faculty and students

* All exhibition catalogs have been published.
American Hospital Administration

1920-1924 Dr. Alden R. Hoover     
1924-1926 Dr. Wilfred Post    
1938-1947 Dr. Aziz Fikret Derlen
1927-1957 Dr. Lorrin A. Shepard    
1947-1964 Dr. Nevzat Yeğinsu
1957-1961 Dr. Wilson Swanker    
1964-1978 Dr. Erotoklis Prifti
1962-1966 Dr. Rolf Lium    
1978-1985 Dr. Haluk Aker
1967-1994 Dr. Warren H. Winkler
1967-1990 Dr. Warren H. Winkler
1985-1994 Dr. Gürhan Ünlütürk
1995-2001 Dr. Engin Bazmanoğlu    
1995-2002 Dr. Engin Bazmanoğlu
2001-2003 Dr. Ömer Arıkan
1990-1999 George D. Rountree
2002-2003 Dr. Ömer Arıkan
2003-2006 Dr. Teoman Dal
1999-2001 Talât Pekelman
2003-2008 Dr. Satia Advan
2006-2008 Dr. Satia Advan (Acting)
2001 Serdar Savaş (Acting)
01/21/2008-10/17/2008 Dr. Evren Keleş
2008-2010 Dr. Evren Keleş
2001-2006 George D. Rountree
2008-2010 Dr. Ömür Erçelen
2010-2014 Dr. Ömür Erçelen
2007-2014 Dr. Evren Keleş
2010-2014 Dr. Erdal M. Aksoy
2014- Dr. İsmail Bozkurt
2014- Dr. Erhan Bulutcu
2014- Dr. İsmail Bozkurt
Some of the American Hospital’s publications
Bahar, Mois, Amerikan Hastanesi Yoğun Bakım Tarihi (American Hospital History of Intensive Care), 2018
Çerezci, Önder et al., El Rehabilitasyonu (Hand Rehabilitation, 2013)
Ergin, N. Tan, Kulak Burun Boğaz Hastalıklarında İleri Teknoloji (Cutting-edge Technology in the Ear, Nose and Throat Diseases), nd.
Eroğlu, Egemen, Erkek Sünneti, İnsanlık Tarihindeki Hikâyesi (Male Circumcision: The Story of Human History), 2011
Güllüoğlu, Bahadır, Elvin Aydın and Vivi Soryano, Meme Kanseriyle Baş Etme Rehberi (A Guide to Coping with Breast Cancer), 2011
Koç, Rahmi M., Alaska, 2013
Koç, Rahmi M., Around the World with Nazenin IV (Nazenin IV ile Devr-i Âlem, 2009)
Koç, Rahmi M., Sergüzeşttir Seyahatnamem (My Travelogue is an Adventure), 2009
Özer, Ali Fahir, Lomber Dejeneratif Disk Hastalığı ve Dinamik Stabilizasyon (Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease and Dynamic Stabilization, 2011
Winkler, Warren H. and Rountree, George D., Amerikan Hastanesi (1920-2007)/American Hospital (1920-2007), 2012
Yalav, Erdoğan, Yaratıcı Gücün Sanatkarları “Cerrahlar” (Artists of the Creative Power “Surgeons”), 2018
Yeşilada, Erdem, Doğadan Gelen Sağlık, Bitki Çayları (Natural Health, Herbal Teas), 2011
Yıldırım, Ferda Maden, Çifte Mucize Çifte Sorumluluk, Çoğul Gebelik (Double the Miracle Double the Responsibility, Multiple Pregnancies), 2007
  Chief Physician   General Director   Responsible Director







1920-1924 Dr. Alden R. Hoover        
1924-1926 Dr. Wilfred Post     1938-1947 Dr. Aziz Fikret Derlen
1927-1957 Dr. Lorrin A. Shepard     1947-1964 Dr. Nevzat Yeğinsu
1957-1961 Dr. Wilson Swanker     1964-1978 Dr. Erotoklis Prifti
1962-1966 Dr. Rolf Lium     1978-1985 Dr. Haluk Aker
1967-1994 Dr. Warren H. Winkler 1967-1990 Dr. Warren H. Winkler 1985-1994 Dr. Gürhan Ünlütürk
1995-2001 Dr. Engin Bazmanoğlu     1995-2002 Dr. Engin Bazmanoğlu
2001-2003 Dr. Ömer Arıkan 1990-1999 George D.Rountree 2002-2003 Dr. Ömer Arıkan
2003-2006 Dr. Teoman Dal 1999-2001 Talat Pekelman 2003-2008 Dr. Satia Advan
2006-2008 Dr. Satia Advan (Vekil) 2001 Serdar Savaş (Vekil) 21.01.2008-17.10.2008 Dr. Evren Keleş
2008-2010 Dr. Evren Keleş 2001-2006 George D. Rountree 2008-2010 Dr. Ömür Erçelen
2010-2014 Dr. Ömür Erçelen 2007-2014 Dr. Evren Keleş 2010-2014 Dr. Erdal M. Aksoy*
2014- Dr. İsmail Bozkurt 2014-... Dr. Erhan Bulutcu 2014-... Dr. İsmail Bozkurt
Abadan Unat, Nermin

Political scientist who received the Vehbi Koç Award for education in 2012.