Faculty of Medicine Masaryk University


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Helena Melicharová
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Created: 31. 10. 2011 9:43:00

A Brief History of the Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk University

The Faculty of Medicine as part of Masaryk University was founded in Brno by one of the first Acts of the Czechoslovak Republic National Assembly on 28 January 1918, after approval of an initiative by deputies Alois Jirásek, Karel Engliš, and others that was broad reaching and far ahead of its time. The University in 1018 had only four Faculties: Medicine, Law, Arts, and Science. The name of T. G. Masaryk, which the new University had by right inscribed on its shield, represented the values of human dignity, practical humanism, and respect for truth based on free, unprejudiced, and critical thinking. Masaryk regarded the foundation of a university in Brno, the second largest city in the country, as one of his principal tasks. The choice of Brno was very convenient with regard to population. geographical position, railway connections, civic organizations, schools, culture, and proximity to developed industry and trade. Brno’s historical position as a natural center of Moravian political, economic, and cultural life also played a positive role.

A highly favourable condition for the new Medical School was the existence of the Territorial Hospital (with Brno’s first clinics), founded in 1786, on Pekařská Street. Other Brno hospitals also created good conditions for a Faculty of Medicine, especially the Territorial Maternity Hospital (founded 8 November 1888), and the specialised Černovice Territorial Institute for the Insane with main buildings constructed in 1863.

After World War I, the need for medical education in Moravia, felt strongly since the first half of the eighteenth century, was imperative, and at this time, the Prague Faculty of Medicine was about to undergo reconstruction. The M.U. Faculty of Medicine founding is also closely connected with the origin of an independent democratic state, which made it possible to overcome complex national impediments, that had been in the way.

A motion to the Czechoslovak government to nominate a professorial staff for the new medical faculty was submitted with the following names: Edward Babák (Physiology), Antonín Ostrčil (Obstetrics and Gynecology), Otomar Völker (Anatomy), František Karel Studnička (Histology and Embryology), Antonín Hamsík (Medical Chemistry), Pavel Ludvík Kučera (Pathological Anatomy and Bacteriology), Rudolf Vanýsek (Pathology and Therapy of Internal and Nervous Diseases), and Julius Petřivalský (Pathology and Therapy of Surgical Diseases). The Faculty commenced with 6 theoretical institutes and 3 clinics - one for internal and nervous diseases, one for surgery, and one for obstetrics and gynecology.

The first professorial staff principally consisted of teachers from the Charles University, Faculty of Medicine. Invaluable assistance in personal preparation was also provided by the Brno Bohemian Technical University, which until then was the only Czech university in Moravia (founded in 1899). The first teachers of the Faculty of Medicine were scientific authorities before they came to the University, and what they shared in common was vision, creativity, and, the ability to assume a position according to requirements of the period and the other faculty members Their erudition and experience enabled them to make their scientific work a natural starting point for their pedagogical activities and in the process educate top-quality successors in respective disciplines.

The Faculty of Medicine was the first to change tuition, initially, for two school years out of the five-year study program. The first dean and vice-chancellor of the University was Professor Pavel Ludvík Kučera. On 12 November 1919, Professor Edward Babák delivered the University’s first lecture entitled “Introduction into the Study of Medicine”.

Theoretical subjects were taught in the buildings of the former Territorial Barracks at Úvoz and Údolní Streets, which had been partly adapted for this purpose; later a lecture hall for anatomy was built.
The lessons in clinical disciplines of medicine took place in the Territorial Hospital, where two lecture halls had been built (for internal medicine and surgery). In 1923, the Pediatric Clinic was opened in a private hospital apartment adapted for this purpose. Professor MUDr. Otakar Teyschl, co-founder of modern Czech pediatric medicine, worked here at that time.

The stomatological clinic was established in a municipal house at Šilingrovo Square. In 1927, the Institute of Pathological Anatomy was finished, and in 1929, a building of the school on Anenská Street was adapted for the Clinic of Psychiatry. In 1930, on Úvoz, a new building for forensic medicine was finished, with an entrance on today’s Tvrdého Street. Iin 1933 the Faculty expanded with an of orthopedic clinic in the newly adapted precincts of the former Khun factory. In 1934, a large pavilion for infectious diseases was erected in the vicinity of the Territorial Hospital on Křížová Street with more than 180 beds, and a clinic for internal medicine was also being built there. Unfortunately, further construction was halted in 1939 when Czech universities were closed by the Nazis.

In the period between the two world wars, the MU Faculty of Medicine educated more than 2,000 doctors. Graduates numbered 131, 176, and 184 in the years 1936, 1937, and 1938, respectively.
During the interwar period, 13 institutes, 11 clinics, and 5 departments were operating at the Faculty. They were the workplace for a variety of prominent personalities who created scientific and medical schools. In the interwar period, the Faculty of Medicine had a significant positive reputation with considerable recognition of scientific achievements. As a result of Faculty of Medicine recognition at this time, the name of Masaryk University was promoted worldwide.

Important works of the co-founders of the MU Faculty of Medicine include those of Professor Edward Babák (1873-1926) on the possibilities of organism adaptation properties. His monographic study was of worldwide significance. He also laid the foundations of a breathing study and wrote “Stomatology and Biology of the Child” for students--and both were pioneering works. Professor Edward Babák founded the journal “Biologické listy” (Folia Biologica). Together with Professor MUDr. Karel Studnička (1870-1955). General Biology was then introduced as a discipline; until then only Systematic Zoology and Botany had been taught. (This endeavour was recorded in 1935 by Professor MUDr. Jan Bělehrádek in his first textbook of biology for medical faculties.). Scientific schools in the respective disciplines were subsequently founded by Professors Julius Petřivalský (1873-1945), Rudolf Vanýsek (1876-1957), and Antonín Trýb (1884-1960). Professors famed during this period included Vilém Laufberger (1890-1986), Václav Tomášek (1893-1962), Jan Bělehrádek (1896-1980), and Jan Florian (1897-1942).

Notable results were also achieved in a number of other research areas. They were mostly reflected in the high level of pedagogical activity and health practice. They were also displayed in extensive and systematic co-operation with a variety of foreign scientific institutions.

The Faculty of Medicine has always emphasized publicizing scientific results. Extension courses (as university lectures for the public) were instituted by Professor Edward Babák and became an inseparable part of application of science in caring for the health of citizens. In the interwar period, publicizing results via expansion of extension cources achieved remarkable results.
In 1939, the shutdown of all Czech universities tragically interrupted the life of the Faculty. The Nazis turned all theoretical institutes of the Faculty into common lodging houses. A series of arrests of Faculty professors, employees, and students began, and many never returned to their work. Jan Florian, who protested the Nazi decision to shut down Czech universities, was executed. The Nazis also executed Professor MUDr. Karel Hora and Assistant MUDr. Jan Jebavý, tortured to death Professor MUDr. Miroslav Křivý, and sentenced other academics to die of diseases and cruelty in concentration camps (including Assistant MUDr. Václav Šilhan). Other academics died during heavy bombardment and other war events. In 1940, a considerable portion of the professorial staff was transferred from active status to involuntary leave. Then, in January 1943, remaining clinical teachers were transferred to the health service, which in fact nearly completed the liquidation of the Faculty of Medicine.

After the 1945 liberation , the Faculty with much difficulty slowly recovered from the severe blows it had suffered with respect to the losses of teachers, students, and equipment. The Nazis had taken away valuable instruments from the clinics, and the Institutes of Anatomy and Histological Embryology had been completely destroyed. Only part of the equipment of the Institute of Physiology and fragments of the furnishings of the Institute of Biology were preserved.

After the war, the Faculty of Medicine was the first University School to reopen, even though a decrease in the number of doctors in 1945 was portentous. Problems arose as to where to teach and how to cope with an onslaught of students. After difficult negotiations, the Faculty took over the greater part of the dissolved German technical college at 10 Joštova Street and two buildings at Komenského Square. On Úvoz Street, the Institute of Forensic Medicine was retained. The teaching staff met for their first session on May 1, 1945. Professor Otomar Völker was a temporary dean until Professor Josef Podlaha, having survived a concentration camp, was appointed Dean. Between the years 1945 and 1948, aid was provided by UNRRA and through American assistance to Czechoslovakia with shipments of medical supplies and equirment of high value.

By the beginning of the winter semester of 1945/1946, the Faculty of Medicine consisted of 24 institutions, of which there were 13 departments and 11 clinics. Its structure was identical to that of the pre-war period. On 25 February 1948, political development of the country again affected the social values upon which Masaryk University had been founded. Instead of a broad and free education of scientific thinking in relation to the understanding and development of human values elitist, bureaucratic centralist trends towards party limitation of evaluation criteria made both pedagogic and scientific work at the University more limited and difficult. A number of excellent teachers were dismissed from the Faculty after February 1948, and another faculty purge took place after August 1968. At these times, remaining teachers and employees who refused to compromise their values and retained their high moral standards were harassed. The leading physiologist, Professor Vladislav Kruta, the anatomist, Professor Karel Žlábek, an outstanding representative of ophthalmology, Professor Jan Vanýsek, and many others survived incompetent Masaryk University management purges during these times.

In the post-war years, new educational health service institutions emerged. Professors and associate professors of the Faculty of Medicine helped both the Faculty of Education in Brno, founded in 1946, and Palacký University in Olomouc (1946). In 1948, a two-year pharmacy study was established at the Faculty of Medicine. This was later reorganized as a four-year study in 1952, and evolved into a separate Faculty of Pharmacy (abolished in 1960).

At the close of the 1940s, the Faculty of Medicine helped establish interdisciplinary and interfaculty studies at the Higher School of Social Studies. These new Faculty commitments included introduction of the study of Dentistry in the year 1950/51. In the year 1953/54 Pediatric Studies became an independent specialization, paying homage to Professor Otakar Teyschl´s programs dating back to 1923.

The modern pavilion of the Bohunice Hospital of Infectious Diseases (erected in 1933-34) became part of the Faculty Hospital in 1 January 1952, and the large pavilion of the Clinic of Psychiatry opened in 1965. These were the first buildings of a new modern faculty hospital on the vast premises of Bohunice. The preparatory work for a 17-story building was begun in 1967, with a foundation stone laid in 1969. However, it was only in 1983 that the Department of Gynecology began operations; other departments were not fully operational until the end of the decade.

Since 1955, the study of medicine has been extended from five years to five and a half and later to six years. In 1957, the Regional Pediatric Hospital became affiliated with Masaryk University as the Children’s Faculty Hospital.

In 1958, the Královo Pole of Plastic Surgery Institute, established by Professor Václav Karfík, was affiliated as a separate clinic within the Faculty of Medicine.

In the field of Biological Science, the Faculty introduced, just after World War II and thanks to Professor Ferdinand Herčík (1905-1966), electron microscope studies of the ultrastructure of living matter.
Automatic non-invasive blood pressure measurement procedure was revolutionized by M.U. Faculty of Medicine Assoc. Professor Jan Peňáz with a device he developed.. In the field of heart transplants a team led by Professor MUDr. J. Vašků investigated survival of animals with heart implants and was the first to apply an artificial heart in clinical practice.

The study of biological reproduction pursued by Professor K. Dvořák, Professor L. Pilka, Professor P. Trávník, and J. Tesařík resulted in bringing the first “test-tube baby” into the world at the Brno Faculty Maternity Hospital.. In 1982, this was the first “in-vitro baby” in all of Eastern Europe (1982). Brno medical school research on transplantation of vital organs focused on technical and immunological problems, and the first successful liver transplant was carried out in the Czech Republic at the Faculty on 02 February 1983 by the team of Professor V. Kořístek, Professor J. Černý, J. Hökl, Assoc. Professor Z. Gregor, Assoc. Professor J. Leypold, and F. Hejl.

In 1956 Brno MU Professor Jan Navrátil (1909-1992) carried out the first open-heart surgery of valves in deep induced hypothermia (Professor Ch. N. Barnard visited the Faculty that same year). Outstanding results in vascular surgery were achieved by his disciple, Professor Jan Černý.

The Department of Cardiosurgeries and Transplantations, headed by Professor Černý and erected as a modern extension to the historical St. Anne’s Hospital compound, came into operation on 09 December 1977. Professor MUDr. Jaroslav Švejda (1915-1986) became a reputable expert in oncological research, thanks to his results in the field of diagnostics and classification of tumorous growth and precancerous conditions on the cellular level.

After the Velvet Revolution of 1989, the Faculty attemped to renew and resume democratic traditions and a fundamental human mission with deep respect for every human life.. Having overcome limitations of a uniform and rigid study regime, the Faculty now strives for openness towards the needs of the present and the future and has increased the numbers of international self-paying students studying in the English program. A new system of postgraduate studies has been created.

The Faculty and its departments have been equipped with modern technology, diagnostic devices, and have been applying novel therapeutical methods. Since 2005, non-medical branch departments have been established in the form of Bachelor program studies with the possibility of continuing in Master’s programs.

In total, 431 teachers and 317 members of staff served the Faculty between 1989-2003. Since then, many structural changes and difficult lengthy reconstruction of its buildings at Komenského Square have facilitated the hiring of additional workers. During this period, the will prevailed to build a new university campus in Bohunice, where all theoretical departments would eventually be relocated. This transition was accomplished under the direction of the following Professors who served as Deans: Pavel Braveny (1990-1991), Josef Bilder (1991-1997), Jiri Vorlicek (1997-2003), and Jan Zaloudik (2003-2010).


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