Croatia’s contribution to medicine

Anto SercerCroatia located in central European covers approximately 56,590 square kilometers and is nestled at the crossroads of the Balkans, the Mediterranean and Central Europe with a population of about 4.30 million people with Zagreb as its largest city.

The history of Croatia dates back to the 7th century when Croats arrived and settled in what is today, Croatia. Having settled here, they started to build a strong foundation upon which they were able to make significant contributions in various fields of study. These contributions, have played a major role in making the world a better place to live in. One area where the contribution of Croatians has been significant is the field of medicine. Croatia has produced many medical scientists and although it may not be possible to list the contribution each of them made, this article will only mention a few to demonstrate what their contribution has been to the field of medicine.

At the age of 28, Gjuro Baglivi who was born in Dubrovnik in 1668 was already the Pope’s physician. He was professor of medicine in Rome and specialized in theoretical medicine and anatomy. He is credited with the discovery of the complex and detailed structure of muscle and the development of a theory that suggested that all physiological and anatomical elements of fibral pathology were a directly related to living fiber. He wrote widely in Latin language producing literature in his field of specialization. Twenty editions of his work have been translated into French, Italian, English and German.

The contributions of Mihajlo Soretic who was a professor at the Budapest and Trnava universities and Niko Ostoic cannot go unnoticed. Mihajlo Soretic conjectured the law senses and their specific energies. Niko Ostoic. Born in 1810 on the Island of Hvar, his book on how the human body is influenced by light was one of the pioneer books on modern heliotherapy.

One of the first people to try to address the problem of small pox was a Croat. As early as 1792,documents confirm that, Ferdinand Hadvig had already started the vaccination of children against small pox in Zagreb. Apart from this he undertook to educate parents on the best methods of preventing small pox. Historians now claim that Zagreb was way ahead of England in the development of a small pox vaccination, thanks to Ferdinand Hadvig.

Fra Mijo Sucic was a master of the arts and sciences. Born in 1820 in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the town of Livno, he started off by studying theology and philosophy in Venice, then proceeded to Padova and studied medicine specializing in surgery. Indeed, he was Croatia’s known surgeon and the instruments he used are now in safe custody at the Gorica, Franciscan Monastery in Livno.

But if Fra Mijo Sucic is remembered as the first surgeon, Ante Grosic who was born in 1849 was the first person to introduce the use of iodic tincture to disinfect a patient’s skin before an operation. He worked in the Rijeka where he was in charge of the surgical ward.

What might be unknown to many people is that the first president of WHO and the author of its first declaration statute was Croatian called Andrija Stampar. Born in 1888, he was Croatia’s authority in the field of preventive medicine and epidemiology. He was a professor at the university of Zagreb but was forced to retire due to political reasons. He went to China as a consultant of the League of Nations where he was instrumental in the development of health services in that country. He was a founder member of the World Health Organization and played an active role in the promotion of health service in Egypt, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Sudan. So great was his contribution to the field of social medicine, that in 1955 he was awarded the internationally acknowledged Leon Bernard medal in recognition of his dedication.

Perhaps the most celebrated son of Croatian medicine is Ante Sercer. A scientist of international repute in othorhinolaryngology, his efforts in having a faculty of medical science bore fruit in 1944 when the faculty was started. But, his greatest contribution came between 1957 and 1965 when he served as the editor in chief of the Croatian medical encyclopedia. The encyclopedia whose first edition had ten volumes with over 700 pages each was one of its type in the world.

Just as a point of interest, Louis Armstrong – Satchmo the world famed singer and jazz trumpeter had carcinoma of the lower lip and was treated by professor Ante Sercer in the sixties. Croatia has indeed made its contribution to the field of medicine in the world.

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