It’s not often that a successful cardiac surgeon leaves his prestigious post and high salary as a director of a private clinic in Athens to go and offer his services to the 1,100 residents of a remote island in the Aegean.
Yet Dr. Dimitris Tsoupis chose to do just that for the people of Kasos, a small island between Crete and Karpathos. And it is not the first time he has made such a move. Before moving to Kasos, he served in the health centers on Serifos and Nisyros, two Aegean islands with small populations and little tourism, even in the summer.
Tsoupis was beloved by the residents of the two previous islands where he practiced. In fact, in both cases, the mayor and residents sent letters to Greece’s Ministry of Health asking for the doctor to stay.
The surgeon, now 63, honors the Hippocratic Oath he took almost 30 years ago. He did not study to become a doctor for the money; his primary aim was always a desire to serve the people.
“I have always wanted to practice medicine without compromise,” he told interviewers from the news website tanea.gr in 2020. “For this reason, it has not been a few times that I have refused to take money from patients for operations that under other circumstances would cost hundreds or thousands of euros.”
Without the facilities a clinic in Athens would offer, Dr. Tsoupis manages to practice with the means at hand. “I like to deal with a situation on my own, with the means at my disposal. I prefer to do so, instead of sending a patient to another island with a larger hospital or to Athens because I am afraid. If you decide to spend a little more time with people, you can do a lot for them.”
The surgeon and his love for the sea
The love of the sea is another reason Tsoupis decided to make such a dramatic change in his life. He has practiced in the United States, Britain, Germany and Athens, but the Aegean is his sanctuary.
“The sea calms me down,” the surgeon says, praising the natural beauty and serenity of the islands, where he has time to enjoy nature and reading. And the way that the people have embraced him so wholeheartedly is also a great reward to him.
“I relive my youth here,” he explains. “People have welcomed me and they are all very kind. The immediacy and relationship that a doctor can build with patients in places such as this is unique. I’m not a kid anymore to go to bars. I am 62 years old. I want quality and peace in my life. I have it here… I am full,” he says with satisfaction.
“I have to thank the mayor of Kasos, Mr. Michalis Erotokritos, for his cordial welcome and for providing all the amenities regarding my comfortable stay on the island, which contributed to my decision to come as a Rural Physician,” he notes.
Regarding the difficult months of the coronavirus pandemic, Tsoupis says that he managed very well.
He adds that the island is prepared to deal with Covid-19 cases, as he has excellent cooperation with the National Center for Immediate Social Assistance (EKAB) and the Greek Navy, while the island’s health center has a fully equipped quarantine ward, donated by a local shipowner.
“What we don’t have is a resuscitation room and plenty of personnel so we can operate on a 24-hour basis,” he said, adding that he has a young resident doctor whom he describes as an excellent scientist on his staff.
In addition to serving as a dedicated doctor for decades, Tsoupis is also a patriot who loves his country deeply. He is very concerned about the people who live on remote islands, who basically serve as guards of the country’s sea borders — “the guards of Thermopylae,” as he calls them.
“Athens must take care of the border people. They literally guard Thermopylae and are prepared for any eventuality. (Turkish President) Erdogan’s chest beating at our door does not frighten us. Freedom requires virtue and valor,” he declares.
Kasos, the southernmost island in the Aegean Sea
Kasos is the southernmost island in the Aegean Sea, belonging to the Karpathos regional unit. It is not a tourist destination, yet its people are famous for their warmth and hospitality.
The island’s residents fought in the Greek War of Independence, having a good-size substantial fleet of their own. In retaliation, Mehmet Ali Pasha of Egypt dispatched his fleet to Kasos in 1824.
The Egyptian armada plundered the island, killing 500 people and enslaving 2,000. In the early twentieth century, most of its residents migrated to more prosperous places in the world.
The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne brought Kasos, along with all of the Dodecanese, under the rule of Italy. The island formally joined the Kingdom of Greece only on March 7, 1948, together with the other islands in the Dodecanese archipelago.