One of the most evocative partnerships in Scottish medical history is moving into the twenty-first century.
The University’s Polish School of Medicine - established to allow Polish soldiers and refugees to continue their studies during the War - is to continue its work supporting the future of medicine in Poland through a series of partnerships with Polish medical schools.
The University has signed an agreement with the Poznan University of Medical Sciences to encourage the development of joint research projects and new teaching methods.
These include joint long-distance teaching initiatives, sharing of academic studies and the promotion of undergraduate and postgraduate student mobility.
Discussions are also underway with the Collegium Medicum of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland’s oldest medical school. Both sides are looking to sign a similar agreement in 2011, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Polish School of Medicine.
Over time, the Polish School of Medicine intends to develop similar partnerships with other Polish medical universities and research institutes.
Founded in 1941 in response to Poland's loss of its academic system under Nazi occupation, the University’s Polish School of Medicine was a unique institution, providing medical training to young medical students and refugees exiled from their home country.
Most of the teaching was carried out in Polish. In areas of the medical curriculum where this was not possible, the University's Faculty of Medicine provided the necessary teaching in English.
Medical English was a tough issue for many students to contend with, and one of the landmarks associated with the school was the production of the first English-Polish medical dictionary by Dr Wiktor Tomaszewski. During this period some 336 students enrolled in the School, with 227 - including 46 women - receiving medical diplomas. Some 19 doctors obtained the Degree of Doctor of Medicine at the School.
The Polish School of Medicine stopped teaching in 1949, but the graduates and staff retained their links with the University, remaining ever grateful to the University for the opportunities it had given them.
In 1986 they established an endowment fund at the University - the Polish School of Medicine Memorial Fund. This provides scholarships for Polish doctors and medical scientists to study or undertake research in Edinburgh.
The Fund also supports the Professor Antoni Jurasz Lectureship, which allows a Head of Department from Edinburgh to visit Poland.
As a result of these initiatives, closer ties have been forged between the University and Polish medical schools and research institutes, some of which had already part educated many of the Polish School of Medicine’s first medical students and provided staff for the School.
So far, the Polish School of Medicine Memorial Fund has enabled 45 medical scientists and doctors to come to the University to undertake research, study or participate in the Medical Teaching Organisation Summer School.
A further 8 Polish doctors and 29 medical students have also come to Edinburgh thanks to support from trust funds linked to graduates of the Polish School of Medicine.
As agreements are signed with other Polish Medical Universities, an even stronger medical academic connection between the University and sister institutions in Poland is expected to result in the greater benefit of both nations and global medicine.
This article was published on May 10, 2011