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Medical University of Pécs - A Historical Review


On the site of the University of Pécs there stood a castle surrounded by walls and moats as early as the times of the Pannonian Celtic tribes. In the Roman age Sopianae was the name of the city built during the reign of Traian (98-117). It became the capital of Lower Pannonia under Diocletian (284-305). The uncovered Roman remains give evidence of a large and beautiful city. The underground crypts are relics of the Christian Roman Age. In the third century Sopianae was one of the eight settlements in Pannonia, which had a parish church. The city, which was bounded by the river Danube, the river Sava, and the Alps, became an episcopal cathedral city under the rule of Constantine (306-337). During the first centuries of Christianity, Sopianae played an important part in spreading the Christian message that eventually embraced the world. Later, Attila's Huns and the armies of at least six nations swept across this region, then Christian South-Slavic people settled down here. At the end of the eighth century Emperor Charlemagne (768-814) drove the Agars out, and in about 865 Liupran, the Episcopate of Salzburg, dedicated a church at the foot of the Mecsek Hills. The records of this church contain the expression "ad Quinque (martirum) basilicas". That was presumably the origin of the name, "Quinque Ecclesiae"; "Fünfkirchen" in German, and Pécs in Hungarian, which might come from the Slavic word "pety" meaning five. In the year 1000 (1009?) King Stephen (István) founded an episcopal seat in the city, which became one of the strongholds of the Medieval Hungarian Christian Culture from that time on. Its cathedral, founded in the Arpadian Age and rebuilt several times, is one of the most beautiful Neo-Romanesque churches in Europe. During the centuries, Pécs developed into the largest city, and one of the most important ones, in the country. Its greatness, the favourable climate and as one of the centres of an expansive empire during the reign of Béla III of Hungary (1172-1196) made the city such emporium that King Louis the Great (1342-1382) not only directed his military plans from here but he also carried out his mission of spreading culture. In 1367, he founded the first Hungarian University - following the footsteps of his father, Charles I Robert and according to intentions of the great Italian poet Petrarch - which was opened approximately at the same time as the other famous, still existing central European universities in Prague, Krakow and Vienna. The intellectual basis for the establishment of the university was provided by the hundreds of Hungarian graduates who had finished their studies mainly at Italian universities and gave rectors and famous professors to the two most famous Italian universities - Bologna and Padua). The financial basis was assured by the richness of Hungary at the time of the Anjou kings. This time Hungary produced 40% of the world's gold and 30% of its silver. Pécs was one of the favourite residences of our kings, e.g. King Louis the Great (Nagy Lajos) and King Matthias Corvinus (Corvin Mátyás). No wonder that the great monarch Suleiman I Ottoman Sultan referred to the city as a "Paradise on Earth".

1.Studium Generale Quinqueecclesiense

During the 14th century, the universities established the world concept of the European intellectual elite. While in the previous centuries the schools that developed beside monasteries were the centres of intellectual life, in this century the universities acted as centres of culture. The universities of Paris, Bologna and Padua and later the universities of Prague, Vienna and Krakow because of their internationality attracted intellectuals of the whole Christian world.

The Faculty of Law in Bologna, founded in 1158 by Frederick Barbarossa (1152-1190), is considered the ancestor of European universities. 300 years earlier one of the kings of the Idrisida Dynasty (788-959) Jahia I (848-904) in their capital, in Fez established the Caravain University in 859. The French clergyman, excellent mathematician and medical doctor, Gerbert d'Aurillac (930-1003) studied at that university, who later became known as Sylvester II Pope (999-1003), who wanted to replace the Roman numerals to Arabic numbers. At Christmas of 1000 he sent the crown to the Hungarian Grand Prince, Stephen. If one accepts 1158 as the year of foundation of the first European university, the foundation of the University of Pécs took place 200 years later. Comparing the year of establishment of the University of Pécs with that of the first German and Austrian universities, Pécs has a short delay of 2 decades and 2 years, respectively. Hungary at the time of the foundation of the University in Pécs was not far from Europe, actually, it was Europe. In those years the population of Hungary was three million while England's population was two million. 200 years earlier, at the time of the establishment of the first European university only the income of the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire was bigger than the income of the Hungarian King.

A large population was a precondition for founding a university. In this respect, Pécs was the first, and Baranya, the county where the city is located, was the most densely populated county in the country. In addition, the city was ranked among the richest from a total of 700 towns in Hungary - it was one of the nine that were mint places.

Religious life was also highly developed. The first congregation of Pécs boasted more than a thousand year-old (although not continuous) history, and its Hungarian episcopal see was more than 300 years old. On the basis of all these, Pope Urban V decreed that "in the city of Pécs there should be, and remain forever, a university with faculties of Canon Law and Roman Law together with other accepted faculties except for that of theology". Among the 41 universities that had been founded by the end of the "Second Babylonian Captivity" of the popes in Avignon in 1379, one can find only nine real universities, i.e. universities with four faculties. The existence of a Medical Faculty in Pécs may be presumed. It is important to mention here, what was the income (and honour) of a university teacher: some professors earned 20 or even 40 marks. The most famous teacher had 335 marks (1 mark was the price of 12 ˝ acres of land, or the bishop of Pécs had 1500 a year). The rector earned only 10 marks, while at Bologna teachers had 30 marks and at Krakow only 1/8 of the income of Pécs teachers. Privileges, immunities and basic freedoms were enjoyed also by the students. (Among the students of the University of Pécs was Harmann Lurcz.) The University may still have existed at the beginning of the 15th century. Our only relic of those days - this may perhaps be called our typical Hungarian fate - is not a building or ruins of a wall but an intellectual product - a codex containing the sermons given at the university in the decades of 1380 and 1390. They represent the oldest existing religious discourses of Hungarian relevance. From our point of view, the most important sermons are those about the lives of the Hungarian saints Stephen (István), Emeric (Imre), Louise (Lajos), Elisabeth (Erzsébet), showing that the University of Pécs was a hearth of patriotic education. The turbulent history of Hungary is illustrated by the fact that this codex, like a great number of other relics of the past, has been preserved outside Hungary, in Munich.

2. Academia Istropolitana

If one says that the ancestors of King Louis the Great are known back to nine centuries than the great grandfather of King Matthias lapses into obscurity of human history. However, both of them were crowned Hungarian kings young (Louis at 16, Matthias at 15 years of age) and their mothers both were called Elizabeth. No sooner had King Mathias (1458-1490) put the holy crown upon his head than he took measures to establish a university on the occasion of the centenary of the foundation of the university by King Louis the Great. He sent a splendid delegation of 300 people, headed by Janus Pannonius, the Bishop of Pécs, to Pope Paul II and, two years later, in 1467, in Pozsony on the river Danube, the university "cum quibuscunque facultatibus" started its activities. By founding this university, Matthias set himself a direct political goal, too - to keep at home the Hungarian students applying for foreign scholarship and to attract the young students of our neighboring countries, Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Lausitz, Lower Austria as a starting point. Ten to sixteen percent of the students in Cracow were Hungarians, while the Natio Ungarica in Vienna was the third largest one. János Vitéz, the archbishop of Esztergom, entrusted with the supervision of the university, engaged teachers like Regiomontanus (János Müller) whose work "Tabulae Directionum", as an indispensable manual for two hundred years, made the great geographical discoveries of modern times possible. (It was first published in 1475, and there were eight subsequent editions in six different languages within 100 years.) Márton Ilkuszi, the owner of a doctor's degree who received the Divinity but was constantly addressed as Doctor of Medicine by Pope Paul II, lectured at the facultas artium. At the request of King Matthias, the Pope allowed him to keep his incomes as canon of Zagreb and dean of Gorizia while studying at the University of Rome. We know the names of half a dozen more professors. The medical faculties of these medieval universities had one or two institutes for the study of ancient medical works, but the cultivation of the medical sciences was going on only at the University of Salerno and later at Montpellier.

We know the names of some students, too, for example, György Szatmári (1457-1524), the Bishop of Veszprém, Várad and Pécs (1502-1521) who ordered the building of the famous Szatmári Altar of the Cathedral. He was secret chancellor, and altar, and after the death of Bakócz (1521) became the archbishop of Esztergom. István Verbőczi is another known name, the complier of "Tripartium Iuris Consvetudinarii Incliti Gentis Hungariae", a collection of Hungarian unwritten law, which was used for centuries later. Although the Academy ceased to exist at about the time of King Matthias' death, the building of the university remained in relatively good condition. The three-storey building, standing in one of the main streets in Pozsony, was marked with a memorial tablet in 1904, the 500-year anniversary of its erection.

The first university of Pécs lasted only for three centuries, while the university, King Matthias established, lasted even less!

King Louis the Great and King Matthias were the two greatest and richest emperors of Hungary who supported sciences and art as the most generous patrons.

3. The Elisabeth University of Sciences

"Things that we see standing accomplished in the world are properly the outer material result, the practical realization and embodiment, of Thoughts that dwelt in the Great Men sent into the world"; in other words - as was said by Carlyle one and a half centuries ago - "The history of the world is but the biography of great men." In agreement with this quotation one can say: the history of a university is the collective history of people working at the university, its faculties, clinics and departments, for - in the words of Carlyle's contemporary, Áron Berde - "what constitutes a university is the spirit of its professors rather than its silent walls." It is a fact that there is no other place like the university where so many great people are concentrated to work together (though it was an open question to the great thinkers of the age as to who should be regarded as great: Bonaparte Napoleon, who sacrificed the life of several hundred thousand people for glories or his contemporary, Jean Georges Cabanis, who saved the life of many but who is not well-known even in professional circles and whose only achievement that made him part of world history was the introduction of surgery into medicine.)

Looking ahead from the time of King Matthias, the fate of the new university of Pozsony, founded by King Francis Joseph (Ferenc József), seems even more dramatic than those of the previously mentioned institutions. Beset by tragedies, King Francis Joseph thought he was obliged to grant the Hungarians a third university besides those in Cluj-Napoca (Kolozsvár) and Budapest. At the beginning of the 1900s, 444 years after the establishment of the university founded by King Matthias, King Francis Joseph felt the time had come to establish a new university. The king approved of the foundation of the Hungarian Royal Elizabeth University of Sciences in Bartislava (Pozsony). Teaching began in the autumn of 1914 except for the medical faculty where classes started four years later. In half a year there occurred a catastrophe greater than any that had occurred up to this point - Trianon. The university had to escape from Bratislava (Pozsony). After nearly half a decade of homelessness in the capital, the university arrived at Pécs, the first university town in Hungary. The teaching staff, the leadership of the town, and the educational branch of the government did their best for the university in the town just liberated from foreign occupation.

The initial euphoria achieved a miracle - within hardly a decade real university conditions were conjured up from almost nothing. The next tragedy was on its way: the Great War. The people believed it cannot be any worse, but the history overcame the human imagination. In 1947, the name Elizabeth was erased from the name of the University, which indicated the end of an autonomous institution. Francis Joseph's decision, to establish the third university of Hungary in Bratislava (Pozsony) is considered to be on the one hand a sequel of family tradition (11 Hapsburg king of Hungary were crowned in Saint Martin dome) and on the other hand the honour of Hungarian history. And as compensation, to degrading of Maria Theresa's Royal Academy (1777) to vocational law school in the Bach-era (only after the Ausgleich "compromise" in 1875 were restored to its origanal state). After the death of Ferenc Deák there was a struggle to develop the college into a university and to name it after him. This is only succeded thiry years later: 7 June 1912 the king approved the establishment of Royal Hungarian Elizabeth University in Pozsony. Teaching was begun at the faculty of law in the autumn of 1914. In order to start work at the medical faculty, buildings had to be reconstructed or built. However, Francis Joseph appointed three professors on 9 January 1914: Dezs? Velits, Ferenc Herzog and Lajos Bakay. In the academic year 1918/1919 the medical faculty began to teach 3rd, 4th and 5th year students. Further Professors were appointed by Charles VI on 3 April 1918: Mihály Pekár, Béla Fenyvessy, Camillo Reuter, Pál Heim, Béla Entz, Ferenc Veress, Géza Mansfeld and jr. József Imre. The Dean was Mihály Pekár. No sooner had the teaching begun another crisis was at hand: the Revolution of 1918 and the Hungarian Soviet Republic. On 1 Janury 1919 the Czech troops arrived at Bratislava (Pozsony) and they eliminated the Hungarian education after less than five years.

From the autumn of 1919 there was the next hardship: after four years of the 'relegation' from Budapest in 1923 the education had begun at the new location, Pécs, in rather difficult circumstances (still with Mihály Pekár as Dean). The teaching only had begun at the four faculties the government wanted to close the University due to economical reasons. (The true reason is more due to the fact that they did not follow the "wishes" of the government: although they reduced the number of Jewish students compared to the times of the Elisabeth University in Budapest- from 64 % to 59%, or in other words out of the 885 medical students at Pécs only 522 were Israelites - however, it was still considered exaggerated by the government after the numerus clausus even if it was around 10% nationwide, but in the academic year 1899/1900 it was 24.4% .

The Erzsébet University had more than 1,000 students when it arrived at Pécs; 1939/40 was the nadir, with only one quarter of this figure.

4. The Medical University of Pécs

At the beginning of 1948, despite the resistance of the professors of the Faculty of Law, under the pressure of the government, the name of the University "Erzsébet" was deleted and it became "The University of Sciences of Pécs" with two faculties. In February 1951, the Faculties of Medicine and Law became two separate, independent universities on the basis of a decree of 1950. Béla Boros was the last rector of the University of Sciences, and Kálmán Lissák was the last dean of the Medical Faculty. The first dean, with a rector's powers, of the faculty promoted to a Medical University, was Professor Gyula Méhes in the academic year 1951/52.

The only way to develop the institution bearing the name "The Medical University of Pécs" was to consider the principle, formulated a few decades before, to establish a university district. The conditions for this were created after the university acquired ownership of the 10-hectare (1 hectare = 2.471 acres) square area, bounded by Szigeti, Honvéd, Ifjúság, and Kürt streets, and of the park and buildings which used to be the property of the Miklós Zrinyi Military Academy. The University Council during the second rectorship of Béla Boros in the academic year 1954/55 formulated this thought into a concrete plan.

After about 10 years of work, on August 20, 1966 the new building, referred to as the "400-bed clinical block", was opened, providing accommodation for five departments: internal medicine, surgery, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, and radiology. As a result, the university had 1317 beds for the purposes of treatment in 1966. The nine other departments remained at seven different sites in the town, while the sixteen theoretical institutes were also at almost half a dozen locations. At the time of the 600th anniversary in 1967, the university had 1147 students, taught by a highly qualified staff of 381 members. A total of 263 doctors worked at the 14 departments, while the 16 theoretical institutes employed 118 graduates. Of the staff of 381, there were 29 professors, 23 assistant professors, 5 members of the Academy, 8 Doctors of Science, and 46 "candidates" (a Hungarian academic degree). While in the 6 years between 1945 and 1950 166 doctors of medicine graduated from the Medical Faculty, in the 17 years between gaining independence and 1967 their number was 2060. (It was in 1967 that the first foreign student earned the degree of MD.)

After the new "theoretical block" and the four smaller buildings next to it were finished in 1970 (and in the following years), it was possible to move the theoretical institutes, situated at five different locations in the town, and the central administration to the same place.

The 4 lecture theatres and the several dozen lecture rooms provided convenient accommodation even in the late 1980s when the number of institutes had increased to 20, that of the departments and central laboratories where 380 clinicians and 230 research workers employed, to 20, and the number of clinical beds to 1373.

After this increase of accommodation, it was possible to launch the teaching of dentists with 25 beds in the academic year 1973/74. (The Department of Dentistry had already been given 16 beds in 1967, and finally, in 1975, the new building of the department was also completed.) The number of students of dentistry in the five years totaled about 120. The "English Program" began 10 years later with 36 students from a dozen countries. In 1990, 20 foreign students graduated. The Training College for Health Workers of our university was opened in 1990 in four towns: Pécs, Zalaegerszeg, Kaposvár, and Szombathely, offering 122 students four kinds of career - dietician, physiotherapist, district nurse, and social worker. The College became a Faculty (School) of Health Sciences in 1998. After that, The Medical University of Pécs consisted of two Faculties: the Medical School and the School of Health Sciences headed by two deans.

In the academic year 1989/90 - in accordance with the change of political system and on the authority of the Rector, Miklós Bauer - a Reform Committee was formed that regarded it as its main goal to put an end to the absurd conditions and practices of the last 45 years. At the suggestion of the Committee the necessary tasks were discussed by a "Round-Table Conference", including the Leadership of the University, Students' Government, Trade Union, Club of Young Lecturers, Senior Club, Board of Professors and Lecturers, and the Reform Committee. In accordance with all this it was the University Conference of Delegates, elected by all the employees of the university that determined the composition of the leading organizations of the university and the mode of election. Then, in accordance with the accepted procedure, the new University Council of 120 members was formed - 36 heads of departments, 54 elected lecturers, and 30 students. The University Council discussed and passed the Statutes of the University, after which any of its members was entitled to nominate any of the University Professors for rector. The Council decided, by secret ballot, which of the two professors receiving most of the votes should be rector. The rector, appointed by the President of Hungary, chose five deputies - educational, scientific, clinical, financial, and foreign affairs - to assist him. The University Council confirmed the deputies in their posts.

In accordance with our traditions, the idea of "Universitas" is gaining ground at the Mihály Pollack Technical College, the Janus Pannonius University of Sciences, and the Medical University. At present it is conceived as a loose "confederation" of the participants.

One of the first actions taken by the new leadership in support of our closer union with Western Europe was the creation of a foundation "For the Medical Science of Pécs" on 17th August, 1991, whose honorary chairman is Dr. Otto von Habsburg.

5. The 1990s: the last decade of the independent medical university

The main task of the three decades after 1970 was the modernization of old buildings, expansion of clinics, namely the Gynaecology, Paediatrics and Psychiatry clinics, and to build new clinical units such as the building of the 2nd Department of Internal Medicine and Nephrology Center and the Heart Center.

From the 1990s improvement is not only indicated by buildings, tools and equipments but also by international connections as shown by several international and Hungarian scientific conferences and congresses either organized by our department and clinics or in which our professors and teachers participated. The university has got connected to the Internet and the Intranet network has also been introduced in order to make communication easier. In the past few years more than 1 billion HUF has been spent on the modernization of our university's research equipment park. When making future plans we should not forget about the past, either. On 17 September 1992 the Museum of University History was established. A Press, a Print, an Instructional Service Center and a Tender Office have been established to give a clear picture of our work to us as well as to others. To help further medical training the Center for Postgraduate Education was established in the summer of 1997. Four new units have been established: the Institute of Family Medicine, the Department of Medical Genetics and Child Development, Institute of Organic and Medicinal Chemistry and the Central Electronmicroscopic Laboratory. The financial leadership of the university played a crucial role in all the above changes, and especially with the so-called 'endofinancing' they developed the university became financially stable. In the beginning of 1998 we purchased the building of the Pécs division of the School of Health Sciences we used to hire earlier. In November 1997 the University Council of the Medical University of Pécs and Janus Pannonius University decided about founding the University of Pécs Fellowship. The foundation document was signed by two rectors, Árpád Bellyei and József Tóth. In November 1998 the complex reconstruction of the university's power supply has been finished (360 million HUF). Reconstruction of clinics was continued and the Traumatology Center was built Next to the former Military Hospital. On 20 August 1999 the Heart Center was opened, its director is Professor Lajos Papp. In the past 5-6 years medical attendance and the financing system of research has changed radically as the medical, the instructional and the research work became performance-based.

45 teacher/professor and research have been awarded Széchenyi Scholarship. 19 international research or researcher exchange programmes were recorded in contract. Mainly based on individual initiation in the year 1998 63 teachers/professors spent all together 494 months in foreign medical, instructional or research institutions for experience. Based on the above we may estimate the number of international connections to be hundreds. Partly as a result of these connections and partly because of the medical education in English the rest of our teachers/professors have a good command of the English language. The number of scientific publications is 600 annually; the total impact factor is about 500. There are about 700 presentations held annually out of which approximately 100 are in foreign languages. Every year 30 instructor receives a 50 000 HUF subsidy for participating in international conferences. Our University has 27 A or B type accredited Ph.D. programmes. The number of state financed Ph.D. students is 60 at the moment, 20 new students can be admitted yearly. 30 million HUF is available for their research. The number of Ph.D. students preparing individually is 160. The number of undergraduate researcher in the Medical University is 396 while in the Faculty of Health Sciences 160. Our University is accredited for habilitation in medical, biological sciences and chemistry. At the end of 1998 more than 50 instructional units operated out of which the number of clinics was 21 and the number of theoretical departments was 23. The total number of students at the Medical Univesity was 1284 (916 general medicine, 107 dentistry and 216 English Program students). The Faculty of Health Sciences had 2299 students in total (1333 full-time students) studying at four affiliated training centres (Pécs, Kaposvár, Zalaegerszeg, Szombathely) in seven disciplines. The number of beds was 1231, the number of graduate workers was 3693, 579 healing-teaching doctors and 184 having other diplomas. Out of 763 graduated workers 100 have already habilitated, 156 were holders of Candidate degrees and 39 were Doctors of Sciences. We had academicians. In the academic year 1998/99 the number of so-called leading instructors (professors, associate professors) was 143, almost one fifth of all instructors.

From July 1, 1997 the rector of the university was Professor Árpád Bellyei, director of the Orthopaedic Clinic, the vice rectors were Professor György Kosztolányi, head of the Department of Medical Genetics and Child Development and Professor László Lénárd, head of the Physiology Department. The Dean of the Medical University between 1999 and 2002 was Professor Emil Fischer.

The contract of association signed at the end of the year 1997 may be regarded as the first step towards the integration of the two institutions. On January 1, 1999 the Medical School had 1284 students (916 general medicine, 107 dentistry and 216 English Program students) and 2299 students were studying at Faculty of Health Sciences. The number of university beds was 1231, the total number of workers was 3693, out of which 763 were instructors (579 doctors). There were 143 professors and associate professors. The Medical University had 5 academicians on January 1, 1999, 39 were Doctors of Sciences and 135 held Candidate degrees.

In the academic year 1998/99 in the Faculty of Law of Janus Pannonius University 3408, in the Faculty of Humanities 3083, in the Faculty of Business and Economics 1907, in Pollack Mihály Faculty of Engineering 2457, in the Faculty of Visual Arts and Music 276, in the Faculty of Natural Sciences 1723, in the Institute for Adult Education and Human Resources Development 5056, in the Teacher Training Institute 472 students were enrolled. It is all together 18382 students. There are all 1549 together workers at the university out of which 657 are teacher/professors (2 academicians, 14 having D.Sc. and 112 having Ph.D. titles).

On January 1, 2000 the Medical University of Pécs was united with the Pollack Mihály Technical College, the Janus Pannonius University of Sciences and with Illyés Gyula Teacher Training College of Szekszárd, and the University of Pécs has been originated with nine faculties. The Rector was Professor József Tóth, and one of the vice-rectors was provided by the Faculty of Medicine, Professor László Lénárd, member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA). With this union the Medical and Health Sciences Center was formed with Professor Árpád Bellyei as a chairman, also bearing the title of vice-rector (after Professor Bellyei's resignation Professor Lajos Papp became the new chairman.)

In 2006 the University of Pécs comprises of 10 faculties.