History

The official date of establishing the Faculty of Medicine of Vilnius University (founded in 1579 on the basis of the Jesuit College founded in 1570) is 24 November 1781, when the rector of the Senior School of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (the official name of the University at that time) M. Poczobutt, in his opening speech at the beginning of the academic year, announced the establishment of a medicine division. The decision was made after the abolition of the Jesuit Order in 1773. The University went under the jurisdiction of the Educational Commission and partly turned the secular way. At that time, medical and natural sciences progressed significantly.

1641 m. spalio 11 d. Varšuvoje išduota Lietuvos didžiojo kunigaikščio ir Lenkijos karaliaus Vladislovo IV Vazos privilegija, kuria leidžiama Vilniaus akademijoje dėstyti kanonų bei civilinės teisės ir medicinos disciplinas
The Charter of the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Vladislaus IV Vasa, permitting the Vilnius Academy to Teach the Canon and Civil Laws and Medicine; issued in Warsaw on 11 October 1641

At the beginning of the medical studies, the University had to invite specialists from Western Europe. A significant contribution to the history of the faculty was made by M. Regnier, J. Briotet, J. E. Gili­bert, S. L. Bissio, L. H. Bojanus, J. A. Lobenwein, J. P. Frank, J. Frank and others. They cultivated the science of clinical medicine, introduced practical innovations, and laid the foundation for social medicine, national health statistics, hygiene, transformed medical training procedures and techniques. Foreigners trained the local academe and contributed much to the Faculty of Medicine to gaining the Europe-wide recognition.

The Faculty of Medicine was famous for its clinics of therapy (since 1805), surgery (since 1809), obstetrics (since 1812), institutes of vaccination (since 1808) and maternity (since 1809) and other scientific, educational and social activities. In 1805, the faculty professors established a medical society in Vilnius. The old historical period of the Faculty of Medicine was interrupted tragically when after the revolt of 1830–1831, in which the University students and professors took an active part, in 1832 Tsar Nicholas I closed Vilnius University and in 1842 the Medical and Surgical Academy which had been functioning instead of the Faculty of Medicine.

The first steps to restore the University were taken only after Lithuania declared its independence on 16 February 1918. On 5 December 1918, the State Council approved the University Statute, but its implementation was prevented by the Bolshevik invasion and the Polish occupation of the Vilnius region.

During the interwar period, Vilnius had the Polish Stefan Batory University which, unfortunately, did not serve Lithuanian culture. However, some of the merits of the Faculty of Medicine of that time are important for us today. In 1919–1939, Vilnius had the Europe-largest craniological collection and significantly complemented the collection of the Museum of Pathology. In 1927, Prof. K. Pelczar and others founded a psychiatric hospital at Vasaros Street and other clinics. In 1931, they established the Institute of Oncologyin 1931, established. Prof. M. Reicher’s studies on the caraites (1933) helped to preserve this national minority from destruction during the Nazi occupation. By 1939, the institution prepared 1185 doctors and 442 pharmacists, and 56 doctoral dissertations were defended.

On 10 October 1939, Lithuania regained its historic capital city and began reviving the Lithuanian Vilnius University. On 31 July 1940, Vilnius University Senate empowered Professor V. Kuzma to set up a commission to revive the Faculty of Medicine. The commission first decided to establish the medical and pharmaceutical divisions of the Faculty of Mathematics and Nature, and this decision was approved by the Senate. As many as 174 students were enrolled to the medical division and 99 students to the pharmaceutical division. In 1942, the dental division was established. It became urgent to separate the Faculty of Medicine from the Faculty of Mathematics and Nature and to re-establish all theoretical and clinical departments. In 1942, Assoc. Prof. P. Kazlauskas was appointed the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dr. S. Čepulis was nominated the head of the dental division, and Prof. B. Šiaulys was designated as the head of the pharmaceutical division. In response to the Lithuanian youth’s refusal to be recruited to the occupant army, on 17 March 1943, Nazis closed the University of Vilnius. However, underground studies continued. Also, for the academic year 1943/1944, new students were secretly enrolled to all departments of the faculty.

In midsummer 1944 Nazis retreated, and for the second time the country was occupied by the Red Army; the second Soviet occupation began, followed by the physical, spiritual and cultural genocide of the Lithuanian nation. Everything had to be started anew. On 13 November 1944, the People’s Commissars Council of the Lithuanian SSR issued the order “On the renewal of higher school activities in the Lithuanian SSR” according to which Vilnius University had the Faculty of Medicine among others, with all divisions. The Faculty of Medicine gradually became a typical Soviet school with mandatory political and ideological subjects and Russian language groups; curricula and schooling plans were imposed from Moscow, and textbooks were based on the Soviet ideology. This nightmare lasted until Joseph Stalin’s death. Then, some opportunities for reform and progress opened up, in particular in the late fifties and sixties.

In 1959, the Faculty of Medicine was complemented with an evening department of paediatrics; in 1964 it became a full-time department and from 1962 began the training of hygiene doctors. The same year, the faculty began the retraining of doctors; in 1977, the doctors’ retraining faculty was separated from the Faculty of Medicine, and the internship was established in 1971.

After the restoration of Lithuania’s independence on 11 March 1990, the formerly imposed forms of training and education were gradually updated. The substantial changes in the faculty were based on independent Lithuania’s pre-war traditions and the experience of modern Western European countries, in particular Scandinavia and the U.S. Clinics were established to unite the treatment activities and studies. Of course, the structure of the Faculty of Medicine is changing in order to meet the new challenges, needs and tasks. In 1990, the residency was established. In 1990, the faculties of Medicine and Doctor Retraining were merged again. A significant break took place in the first half of 2002 with a radical structural reform of units, enabling an efficient utilisation of the creative potential and maintaining the competitive spirit.

The community of the Faculty of Medicine of Vilnius University fosters long-standing and distinctive traditions. The faculty has the flag, the emblem and the dean’s toga of its own. The Faculty’s history museum accumulates documentary and iconographic material. However, the honourable history is no longer the foundation to ensure peaceful and satisfying well-being. The immediate tasks of the Faculty include the strategic long-term plans of international relations, studies, developing research, scientific and economic activities, which must be based on the Statute of Vilnius University. It is necessary to revise its structure and promote the programs of studies, using the EU structural funds appropriately. Among the most pressing challenges the faculty is facing today is the improvement of the quality of education, development and modernization of the existing and creation of new programmes, improvement of the qualification of lecturers, modernization of the educational process (by equipping modern simulator, computer classes, etc.) encouraging student’s creative thinking in solving scientific problems and applying the results of research work for contemporary needs, developing and modernizing the University hospitals.