History Office explores the past, present, and future in Maastricht

12 October 2019 By Loek Keizer

The EAU History Office held its annual autumn meeting in Maastricht, the Netherlands on 11-12 October. On October 10th, the History Office also participated in the FutUrology Symposium which was held in honour of the retirement of Prof. Philip Van Kerrebroeck at Maastricht University.

A great variety of experts in urology gave their views on the past, present and future of certain procedures. The lectures that dealt with the past perspective of these urological topics were given by History Office experts.

Historical perspective
The symposium was divided in six sessions, each with three speakers on the past, present and future of said topic. Topics ranged from neuro-urology (Prof. Van Kerrebroeck’s specialty) to endourology and andrology to urological oncology.

As the “past” speaker of the latter session, History Office board member Prof. Roman Sosnowski gave a historical overview of prostate surgery. While a common and life-saving procedure in the 21st century, until the 1980s, the surgical anatomy of the prostate was poorly understood.

It was the pioneering work of Patrick Walsh (and his collaboration with Pieter Donker of Leiden University) that led to the first nerve-sparing prostatectomy in 1982. Up to that point, hormone therapy was considered the primary treatment for prostate cancer. The next major development was the discovery and implementation of PSA. Combined with an improvement in biopsy procedures, the survival rate for prostate cancer significantly improved since the early 1980s.

Mr. Jonathan Goddard spoke on the history of uro-gynaecology, presenting a variety of early medieval texts with reference to the treatment of female incontinence. A variety of options, including stoppers, the artificial narrowing of the urethra or the injection of a variety of substances like paraffin were proposed throughout the ages, until the development of slings reached a maturity in the 20th century.

Additional history-themed talks came from former History Office chairman Prof. Dirk Schultheiss (a look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s work on male anatomy), Prof. Jens Peter Nørgaard (paediatric urology), Dr. Sajjad Rahnama’I (the discovery of the relationship between the nervous system and urology) and Dr. Rob Schipper (the development of endourology).

The symposium was closed by a highly personal lecture by Prof. Frans Debruyne, former EAU Secretary General and one of the department heads that Prof. Van Kerrebroeck worked under in his long medical career. Prof. Van Kerrebroeck then held his own farewell lecture in the historical setting of the Sint-Janskerk (Saint John’s Church), marking the end of his academic career.

Looking to EAU20
But the visit to Maastricht also served as a board meeting for the History Office, allowing the office to discuss its planned activities in Amsterdam for EAU20, on-going research projects, new publications and management of the EAU’s collections of urological instruments.

In Amsterdam, Dr. Mattelaer will present Roma Intima, a co-production with classical historian Dr. Bert Gevaert that examines Ancient Roman attitudes to sex and other urology-related topics. The book will be available as a congress gift to EAU Members who are attending EAU20. The book will be introduced at the History Office at EAU20 (Saturday, 21 March) by both authors, with a launch and signing to follow at the EAU Exhibition afterwards.

The rest of the Special Session will focus on urology topics related to the Netherlands, such as Dutch (proto-) urologists, the depiction of urological topics in Low Countries art, and the special relationship between Patrick Walsh and the Dutchman Pieter Donker. A special slot will be reserved for the 2020 winner of the Desnos Prize, an EAU Prize honouring contributions to the study of the history of urology.

Participants can also look forward to a dedicated History of Urology poster session, and of course the annual Historical Exhibition next to the EAU Booth. This year will feature unique objects related to urology in the Netherlands from the EAU’s and private collections.

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