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20211123 143800N Photograph: VU MF

Dear guests, colleagues, students, and alumni,

First of all, thank you for being here today and the opportunity for us to spend this afternoon together, remembering the history of the Faculty of Medicine and building our community for the future.

It is easier to talk about the past because it has already become a reality. Reflecting on past experiences make us think about the path we have taken and the meaningful work we have done.

The present encourages us to ask: What changes are waiting for us in the future? Aspiring to find an answer to this question may seem too ambitious. But when it comes to the researchers from Vilnius University, this is not a difficult question. Today we can say without hesitation that the future begins here and now. And that we are building it together.

On this joyful occasion, celebrating the foundation of the Faculty of Medicine, I wish to thank the enduring family of the faculty, the active community, and each individual for their unconditional commitment to our vocation. I thank you for being sensitive to the needs of the public, for your high level of skill, and for your innovative insights and audacious work. For these reasons, we can pride ourselves on our scientific achievements and our modern study programmes that attract local and international students.

Since its establishment on 24 November 1791, the Faculty of Medicine has seen its highs and lows. However, looking at the past, it is difficult not to notice improvements each year to quality of studies, scientific achievements, and leadership and innovation.

I'd like to share with you some examples from our history.

In 1804, studies at the Faculty of Medicine were reformed according to a plan proposed by German physician Johann Peter Frank, a pioneer in public health and social medicine. He proposed a preparatory course in the natural sciences, for prospective students, prior to commencing the six years of their medical studies. Studies began with simple courses that gradually became more complex. This model, designed at Vilnius University, later became an example for other universities in the Russian Empire. In 1805, the famous Vilnius Medical Society was founded through Frank’s initiative. It continues to unite physicians in Vilnius today.

Even in 1832, when Vilnius University was closed, the Faculty of Medicine continued its activities under the name of the Academy of Medicine and Surgery. Over 20 disciplines were offered to students here. Some of them such as medical statistics, medical ethics, medical history, and medical geography were completely new and had not been taught in Vilnius before.

Significant achievements were made at the Faculty of Medicine once it became part of Stefan Batory University in Vilnius, which opened in 1919. In a little over a decade, the re-established faculty, which started with four departments, expanded to 13 departments and 12 clinics. The faculty had a large number of students and accounted for nearly a quarter of the students at the university. The most productive period for the Faculty of Medicine of Stefan Batory University was between 1924 and 1938, when nearly 1,577 research papers were published. Some 80 doctoral and 20 post-doctoral dissertations (habilitations) were defended, and a total of 13 textbooks were published.

After the restoration of Lithuania's independence on 11 March 1990, the faculty underwent changes based on the pre-war traditional model of independent Lithuania and drew on the experiences of Western European countries, especially Scandinavia, as well as the U.S.A. Clinics were established to unite clinical work and training. In 1990, residency studies were introduced and in the same year the faculties of medicine and the qualification training of physicians were merged. Finally, a significant turning point occurred in the first half of 2002, when there was a radical structural reform of the divisions of the faculty enabling more efficient use of creative potential and maintaining the spirit of competitiveness.

A major breakthrough in internationalisation began in 2013, when English language medical and dentistry studies for international students were launched at the Faculty of Medicine. Initially the steps were small and timid, but were taken with great enthusiasm. Today, a total of 20% of students are from abroad. They take part in various committees, governing bodies, and student representation, including here, in the Council of the Faculty. Medical studies are enjoying a period of prosperity not only in terms of quantity with regards to new programmes, but also in terms of quality.

I have mentioned only a few of the more vivid events in the history of the faculty. They testify to the resilience of the Faculty of Medicine in the most difficult situations and its ability to drive forward. We celebrate the 240th anniversary of the Faculty of Medicine in a period that makes us assume even more responsibility: moving forward with even greater drive and stronger ambitions. Today’s threats and challenges, which have paralysed lives globally, only highlight the uniqueness of our mission. Where life and health are concerned, we are always at the forefront. Each of us—from academics to new students—is actively working, creating, volunteering, and fostering a culture of empathy in society.

Time has tested, evaluated and confirmed the visions created and nurtured by prominent lecturers, scientists, and academics of our faculty. We are proud of this. We are also proud of our alumni, today’s practitioners and professors who make the name of the university and our faculty famous throughout Lithuania and abroad. Every year, we proudly award diplomas to hundreds of students and launch these bright minds off towards their future, knowing that they have not only gained professional knowledge and skills, but also have become and will remain part of the family of the Faculty of Medicine.

Today we are witnessing significant changes. In a few days, the initial construction of a new research centre of the Faculty of Medicine will be announced and a time capsule with wishes for future generations will be buried there. I believe that the research centre in Santara Valley will provide excellent conditions for a breakthrough in biomedical science in Lithuania. Also today, in conjunction with the foundation of Vilnius University, we will open an endowment sub-fund of the Faculty of Medicine and will call on our community, partners, alumni and friends to come together to fund the training of a future generation of physicians and other specialists of biomedicine.

I congratulate the entire community of the Faculty of Medicine—lecturers, researchers, students, alumni, and administrative staff—on the occasion of the 240th anniversary of our faculty and encourage everyone to harness our great historical tradition to build the future together. Let’s be healthy, wise and optimistic! Congratulations to everyone as we celebrate our Faculty!

Dean Prof. Algirdas Utkus

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