Celebrating the history and culture of urology

Fri, 11 Mar 2016

“Stimulating the study of history opens windows to the future,” was how Prof. Frans Debruyne eloquently opened the 6th International Congress on the History of Urology. It became clear over the course of the day-long congress that it celebrated not only the history, but also the culture of urology by highlighting its social and artistic aspects.

Fifteen experts from five continents took part in the day-long scientific programme that explored the worldwide origins of urology. Over 200 delegates arrived in Munich earlier than usual to attend the Congress, which was organised by the EAU History Office and its international partners in conjunction with the 31st Annual EAU Congress. Former EAU Secretary General Prof. Debruyne was its Honorary Congress President, with Prof. Dirk Schultheiss sharing ceremonial duties as Chairman of the EAU History Office.

Naturally, the congress included topics on the origins of certain procedures, biographies of known and unknown pioneers and even the prehistoric evidence of cultures of sexuality. What made the 6th International Congress unique, was the often first-hand accounts given by veteran speakers like Prof. Claude Schulman (Brussels, BE), Mr. John Pryor (London, GB) and Prof. Christian Chaussy (Regensburg, DE). Their reflections on their experiences working with Willy Gregoir, in the burgeoning field of Andrology or on their own innovations in ESWL respectively made for an unforgettable afternoon.

Organisers were also most pleased with the participation of speakers from as far away as Egypt, Argentina and China. Each presented unique insights from the medical history of their respective countries, in some cases decidedly longer histories than others.

Also in attendance and chairing the session on Politics and Urology was another former EAU Secretary General: Prof. Per-Anders Abrahamsson. He made his return to the Annual EAU Congress after being succeeded by Prof. Chris Chapple in Madrid last year. “I am happy to co-chair this session at the History Congress, now that I myself have become a person of history”, he quipped.

The Politics and Urology session, the second of four, included Dr. Mike Moran, curator of the AUA’s William Didusch Center for Urologic History in Baltimore (US). His talk on the American Civil War delved into some 19th century urology-related procedures on the American battlefields, as well as touching upon the Historian’s plight of having to rely on centuries-old documentation which might not answer the modern-day questions.

Away from the spotlights of hard science elsewhere at EAU16, many speakers told personal anecdotes and shared insights from their many decades of experience. Prof. Jerzy Gajewski (Halifax, CA) kept it light after his detailed history on the Canadian Urological Association, ending with a quote from Leo Tolstoy: “Historians are like deaf people who go on answering questions that no one has asked them.”