Altan Kayan

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 21 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a776
  1. Denis Kayan,
  2. Jan Kayan,
  3. Zizi Kayan,
  4. Laura Kayan,
  5. Richard Ilker Kayan,
  6. Deirdre Lucas

    Altan Kayan’s interest and skills in neurology were rapidly recognised in his native Turkey, where he became a specialist in 1969 and associate professor in neurology in the Aegean University in 1974. While honing his skills, he spent a year in Oslo as a research fellow in clinical neurophysiology, where he met his wife, Lynne.

    With this background, he was welcomed as a research fellow in neuro-otology in London, first in the Institute of Neurology in 1982 and subsequently in the Institute of Laryngology and Otology. During this time, he worked with a number of the pioneers of neuro-otological research such as Dr J Derrick Hood and Professor Ron Hinchcliffe, contributing seminal papers on vertigo, balance disorders, and migraine, as well as chapters to a number of reference books. All through his career, he presented at conferences and training seminars throughout the world: London, Europe, Israel, the United States, and, on numerous occasions, Turkey. A particularly memorable project involved studying the world famous Whirling Dervishes from the Konya area in his native Turkey in order to understand why, despite endless spinning in the same direction, the Dervishes had no symptoms of dizziness nor measurable balance disorder.

    Settling in the United Kingdom, Altan made the difficult decision to return to training and was appointed senior registrar in audiological medicine at the Royal National Throat, Nose, and Ear Hospital in 1985. Here he continuously juggled the demands of training and clinical service with his love of research and his commitments to his family, culminating in his appointment as consultant in Nottingham and Derby. In Nottingham he continued to write research papers, focusing on the interest in tinnitus already established in the department by his predecessor. He gained wide respect in the Nottingham/Derby area for the contribution he and his teams at the Hearing Services Centre and the Derby Royal Infirmary made to the improvement in the lives of tinnitus sufferers in the region: he was particularly proud of the local BBC television (East Midlands) news interview on the work of the local team. His expertise in tinnitus led to his services being much in demand in medicolegal cases

    Altan was an intensely private man: kind, courteous, and self-effacing. He was a popular teacher with endless patience and enthusiasm for his subject, always willing to explain the intricacies of audiovestibular examination, assessment, and function to undergraduates and postgraduates in all fields associated with audiology. His patients were not the only ones to appreciate his meticulous attention, knowledge, and humour. His profession was an extremely important part of his life, his altruism resulting in a perfectionist’s attention to detail and accuracy. He was a strong believer in the principles of the NHS and the rights of everyone to free health care: during his career in Turkey, he campaigned with a number of his colleagues for an equivalent of the NHS there, so that everyone could benefit from good quality health care, regardless of wealth.

    In retirement he was able to develop his interest in ceramics and his love of classical music, devoting a large amount of time to listening to one of his wide ranging collection of hundreds of CDs from many different composers, often in the company of a particular friend or one of his five children.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a776


    • Former consultant in audiological medicine Queen’s Medical Centre University Hospital, Nottingham (b 1938; q Aegean University, Izmir, Turkey, 1962), d 28 June 2007.

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