This year the Academy of Medical and Health Sciences of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands celebrates its 150th anniversary, an institution as veteran as it is extraordinary: it is the only existing medical academy in Europe (made up of 30,000 associates), except for another in Bilbao, associated both of you It is chaired by Dr. Joan Sala, proud to tell me about this achievement of Catalan associationism: it allows small medical-scientific-health societies (up to 86 different ones!) to have reliable coverage and a network on which they can move with guarantees, and it is a knowledge forum, promotes scholarships and awards and supports research. We congratulate institutions like this Academy and its 30,000 associated doctors and health professionals, with branches in Andorra and Valencia.
I have operated for fifty years.
The belly used to be like a closed box.
There was little we could do there. That has changed today, everything is now removable, operable. I have already retired.
After half a century in the operating room…
Yes, practicing general and digestive surgery.
How was this vocation of yours born?
Because of something a teacher said at school.
What did he say?
“Cancer has no cure.”
It would be years 50, I calculate…
I was eight years old at the time and I said to myself: “Well, I would like to be able to cure him.”
And studied Medicine.
That’s right, and I focused on tumors of the digestive system, my passion in addition to morbid obesity, endocrine surgery…
What three basic virtues suit the good surgeon?
Direct and empathic contact with the patient. Keep calm. And have clear ideas.
There are operating theaters already with a robot.
And every day they will be used more in special circumstances, and they will be valuable assistants. But presence is still needed.
Does your discipline come out of the pandemic well?
What happened has shaken the hospital system and has shown us that we knew less than we thought. And it has taught us something we should never forget…
What do you mean?
Because interpersonal contact is irreplaceable and fundamental.
Whether public or private medicine.
I love the public: you feel accompanied, protected. I have also operated privately: patient and doctor are chosen.
Has your discipline evolved a lot in fifty years?
Oncology has been refining chemotherapy, each time more accurate and less toxic, and this increases cures.
Which is very encouraging.
The evolution already starts from the 19th century.
What do you think?
Already in 1872, the Academy of Medical Sciences of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands (ACMCB) was founded here, with a very practical and experimental medical approach.
What did he contribute to our medicine?
It had a municipal laboratory in Barcelona, and a debate forum: since 1888, with the International Congress of Medicine, medical science took a great leap here.
Can you visualize it?
See in 1906 the Clínic hospital, an innovator in combining didactics and practice, and the Santa Creu hospital, a pioneer in applying insulin to diabetics, remote electrocardiograms…
A high level, I understand.
But our Civil War came and the level of the medical school declined. It did not recover until the 1960s and 1970s.
Now we update ourselves as the Academy of Medical Sciences… and Health.
Why this added?
In the 21st century we focus health on people, individually and collectively.
Is this Academy operational?
Fortunately, with 30,000 associates and 86 scientific societies, including nurses, psychologists, pharmacists…
All necessary for our health.
In particular the infirmary, which we awarded, in tribute to Florence Nightingale.
A British woman who was a forerunner of professional nursing: at night she walked with a lamp through the trenches of the Crimean War, finding and healing badly wounded soldiers.
It deserves homage.
In the field hospitals, patients died more than due to their wound due to surrounding pathologies: their care
improved patient survival.
And what would be the time to improve now?
Caring for our elderly: there will be more and more of us and we will need more pampering.
Would you make any proposal?
In Spain we are still well below the European average in health investment and health workers’ salaries…
We will have to improve that, yes.
From the Academy we also involve all professionals involved in health management: health lawyers, architects of hospitals or health centers, epidemiologists…
Advise a debuting surgeon.
I point out the values of the Athenian academy: truth, goodness, beauty, which today I would translate into conscience, ethics and quality.