Wirth: “This is my legacy”

An interview with the 2020 Willy Gregoir Medal Winner

By Loek Keizer

Prof. Manfred Wirth (DE) was the 2020 winner of the Willy Gregoir Medal for a significant contribution to the development of the urological specialty in Europe. The medal had previously been awarded to only the biggest names in urology, most recently Freddie Hamdy (2019), Vincenzo Mirone (2018) and Paul Abrams (2017).

This year, Prof. Wirth is also retiring from the EAU’s Executive Committee, where he served as Treasurer and was in charge of the EAU’s communications since 2004. We spoke to Prof. Wirth on this momentous occasion, after over fifteen years at the heart of the Association.

How did you first become involved in the EAU?
“I first got involved with the EAU when then- Secretary General Frans Debruyne approached me in the early 1990s. I already knew Frans well from the different urology meetings that we had both attended in previous years.”

“In the summer of 1992 I was invited to join a meeting in Paris that would determine the long-term strategy of the EAU, to make it the association that it is today. Frans and his team must have thought that I would be of value to the Association!”

“From that point on, I was involved in the EAU’s activities, working for its research section and the Video Committee. In 2004 I joined the Executive Committee as Treasurer.”

How do you look back on your time on the Executive?
“With regards to my role as treasurer, I’m happy that the EAU is financially completely independent, able to finance an excellent central office, world-class and annually updated Guidelines, a whole range of meetings, specialised sections and also a Research Foundation. We made big steps to financial security since 2004.”

“Over time, we managed to hold on to our money and invest in the right things. I have to thank Executive Manager of Business Affairs Maurice Schlief and his team for rising to the challenge and doing an excellent job supporting the EAU’s ambitions.”

“Regarding the EAU’s communications: I’m proud that we have not just the best urology journal in the world but a whole family of quality journals.”

“We recently saw the launch of the new journal EU Open Access, which is a significant development in how our scientific content is published and distributed.”

“Being responsible for communications has also made me an ex-officio member of the EAU History Office. I’m proud of the research project that investigated the fate of our Jewish colleagues during the Second World War in Urology Under the Swastika (2017).”

“This was my idea, started at the DGU as a strictly German topic we brought it to EAU an enlarging its scope. This is something I’m particularly proud of, and it’s an important and dark chapter in our profession’s history that we must face.”

The Willy Gregoir Medal is for significant contributions to urology in Europe. What is your proudest achievement in your field?
“This is very difficult to say. As an academic and a teacher, I’m proud to have worked with excellent colleagues, to have trained them to become masters in the field, heads of university departments, clinics and excellent researchers. Over the years I’ve motivated and guided people to prominent positions. I’ve trained more than fifty urologists. I think this is my legacy.”

“It is a great honour to win this award, to join this group of esteemed colleagues. But I’m not retiring yet: I will keep working at Dresden University as a senior professor, and as a clinical consultant. I want to serve both patients and my younger colleagues with my longstanding experience, expertise, and practical knowledge.”

“I might be going back to academia, but I also look forward to spend more time with my wife, our four children and our six grandchildren. My wife is happy that I will have a bit more time, and I’m happy too.”