The establishment of the Polish School of Medicine in March 1941 was a unique wartime academic initiative.
Although originally intended to meet the needs of students and doctors in the Polish armed forces, the School opened its doors to civilians from the outset.
Students followed a Polish curriculum, were taught mainly in Polish, and were awarded a Polish degree.
By the time the school closed in 1949, over 336 students had matriculated. 227 had graduated with a medical diploma (MBChB) and 19 obtained a doctorate or MD.
Only a few graduates returned to Poland after the war - most remained in Britain. Some emigrated to the US, Canada, Australia and elsewhere.
From 1966 onwards they have held 5 yearly reunions in Edinburgh. The next such gathering will take place in 2016. Despite being fewer in number, the graduates and friends still keep the spirit of the Polish School of Medicine alive and maintain their links with the University.
The Fund was set up in 1986 by graduates and friends of the Polish School.
Their aims were to acknowledge the tremendous help the University had given to Poles during WWII and to foster links between the University of Edinburgh and Polish medical universities.
Income from the Fund provides scholarships for talented Polish medical scientists working in Polish medical universities and research institutes to come to Edinburgh to undertake further study or research.
It also supports the Professor Antoni Jurasz lectureship, allowing a nominated Head of Department from Edinburgh Medical School to give a lecture in Poznan and one other Polish medical university.
The Collection was established in 1986, on the 45th anniversary of the founding of the Polish School, by the late Dr Wiktor Tomaszewski who had been a senior member of staff at the Polish School and a much revered Edinburgh GP. It is now under the care of the University Collections Division.
The Collection contains many medals of medical interest, sculptures, paintings, photographs and books about the School, and other artefacts.
Many of the items were gifted by Polish medical universities, former students, staff and graduates of the Polish School and by Dr Tomaszewski himself.
Part of the Collection is on view in the Chancellor’s Building at Little France.
The existence of the Polish School of Medicine and the activities of its graduates and friends have given rise to an extensive archive of documents, photographs and historical objects. Much of this material can only be seen or consulted by appointment. To mark the 70th anniversary of the School, a special exhibition was mounted in the Main University Library Gallery in May and June 2011. This allowed members of the public access to some of this wonderful history affording them an opportunity to learn about the achievements and legacy of this unique wartime academic initiative.
Artefacts on view included documents, war medals, photographs and other material belonging to some of the School’s graduates together with a striking and powerful group of 5 bronze sculptures by the last Dean of the Polish School of Medicine, Professor Jakub Rostowski. Also on display were a number of Polish commemorative medals and a set of enchanting pen and ink drawings by Josef Mynarski, a Polish artist. These drawings have been used as illustrations in a number of books written about the School by the late Dr Wiktor Tomaszewski. In addition, visitors were also given an insight into the role that the Paderewski Memorial Hospital played in the education of these Polish students and doctors.
A short video which includes interviews with Dr Anna Sokolowska, a 1946 graduate of the Polish School and Drs Pawel Szychta and Anna Moniuszko-Malinowska, Polish School of Medicine Memorial Fund Scholars in 2011, can be viewed at the link, below.
For further information or to view the Collection, please contact Dr Maria Dlugolecka-Graham MBE (Wednesdays from 9.30am-2.30pm).
This article was published on May 11, 2015