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EAU18 – History Office Special Session Explores History of Urology in Denmark, Scandinavia and Beyond

The interconnectedness of urology in Europe is exemplified by the collaboration evident in the Scandinavian countries and the Scandinavian Association of Urology in particular. On the first day of EAU18, the 33rd Annual EAU Congress, held this year in Copenhagen, the EAU History Office welcomed prominent Danish and Scandinavian speakers to give the audience a flavour of the long history of regional cooperation, as well as some biographies of eminent Danish urological pioneers.

Later in the Specialty Session, EAU History Office Chairman Prof. Philip Van Kerrebroeck (NL) gave some background information on the new EAU Ernest Desnos Prize, Dr. Johan Mattelaer (BE) gave a preview of his latest book, and Mr. Jonathan Goddard (GB) looked at the role of British urologists in the First World War, with 2018 marking the centenary of the end of the war.

Establishing a Nordic Society

Prof. Christian Beisland (NO) spoke about the extensive history of urology in the Scandinavian countries as well as the establishment of an international urological association for the region.

Beisland said: “The Nordic Surgical Society (NKF) was first founded in 1893, making it one of the oldest surgical societies in the world. It was a relatively slow process of separating urology from general surgery, with the first national societies being established in the 1950s and 1960s.”

In 1950, the Scandinavian Association of Urology laid its foundations as an informal group, a ‘travelling club’ for urologists in Denmark, joined later by urologists from Norway, Sweden and Finland. In 1956, a proposal was made to formalise this arrangement in a proper Association, albeit with some initial scepticism by representatives from Norway and Sweden. Beisland: “In the end, the Association was famously founded in the sauna of Professor Tuovinen’s summer house in Ojakkala, Finland.”

Initially, the Association had a fixed quota of members from each country, although over time this arrangement was replaced by automatic membership when a urologist joined their respective national society. Iceland joined the Association in 1976.

Since 1995, the official language of the Association has been “bad English” (as opposed to “bad Swedish” –  the words of Prof. Jens Andersen (DK)). The decision to switch to English was made in order to be more inclusive to the Finnish delegates and also to attract greater international interest. Prof. Andersen recollected that board of the Scandinavian Association had a lot of discussion at the time, amid fears of a loss of national identity.

Holm and Hald

Drs. Jorgen Kvist Kristensen (DK) and Jørgen Nordling (DK) presented biographies of Profs. Hans Henrik Holm and Tage Hald (DK) respectively, two incredibly influential and respected urologists. Holm was a pioneer in interventional ultrasound, combining ultrasound with biopsies, treatment of cysts and percutaneous nephrostomy in the 1960s.

Tage Hald, the 1999 Willy Gregoir Award Winner, was a founding member of the International Continence Society, and was tasked with establishing uniform terminology in that field. “He was a much-admired tutor and he supervised a huge range of topics as Professor at Herlev Hospital,” Nordling concluded.

Article by Loek Keizer