The peak of the Semmelweis year is over – let us continue to be inspired by this great man!

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Around the date of July, 1st many ceremonies in honour of Ignaz Semmelweis took place around the world – especially in Hungary and Austria. The 200 years Semmelweis Symposium which took place on June, 21st in Vienna was an enrichment in many ways. The Semmelweis Foundation has succeeded in inviting not only hygiene experts but also a couple of interesting people from other disciplines, who brought valuable new aspects about healthcare associated infections (HAI) into the discussion – for example Dr. Anna Durnova from the IHS (Institute of advanced studies, Vienna). She is political scientist and a great admirer of Iganz Semmelweis since the age of ten. Anna Durnova who published a book about Semmelweis in 2015 is still fascinated by Semmelweis’ will having fought for his findings despite the most adverse circumstances. She is convinced that this sort of courage is needed not only in medicine but generally, especially as we are going through times, where the handling with facts became difficult (postfactual times).
Interesting aspects came also from a completely different angle: From aviation. Hans Härting, captain at Austrian Airlines and responsible for the Human Factors department (air operations) draw a comparison between aviation and healthcare. In his main job Hans Härting is pilot, the other part of his working time he is spending in hospitals, trying to find out why things that work in aviation do not work in medicine (for example filling out checklists). He is doing this since 15 years and he is convinced, that a system change is needed – it may not be an option whether safety measures are done or not. Behavior change without system change is not possible and therefore he appeals to more courage on the part of the political leaders.
There is so much more to tell about the Symposium, but that would be going too far. However, let me describe a situation when I was leaving the event in the evening: At the exit – on the interface between event location (General Hospital Vienna) and old General Hospital (where Semmelweis made his discovery) I have seen a person with a trolley in the already deserted areal. After some seconds I realized that it must be an employee of the medicine library (Josephinum) who is carring “home” something very valuable: The original washing bowl, the famous Semmelweis book “etiology, concept and prophylaxis of childbed fever” and other objects that were exhibited during the Symposium.This scene was touching and I thought that this symbolic objects are now disappearing in the archives of the medicine library, but the spirit of Semmelweis must stay alive also after July, 2nd 2018.
In this sense – in March 2019 the Semmelweis Foundation is organizing its 3rd Conference – this time again in Vienna (2017 was in Budapest) – and let us continue to be inspired by this great man!

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Carola Timmel is journalist for print and radio and professional speaker. Her focus lies on the topic Medicine & Health.

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