History of Slovak cardiology spans almost one century and may be divided into five periods:
In the first period (1919-1930) professor Kristián Hynek (1879-1960), head of the Department of Internal Medicine at Faculty of Medicine and co-founder and rector of the first modern Slovak university – Comenius University in Bratislava – stood at the inception of Slovak internal medicine and cardiology. Hynek was also co-founder of the Czechoslovak Society of Cardiology (CSSC) (1929) and became its vice president. His ambition was to keep strong links of cardiology in Slovakia to important international clinical and scientific developments in this medical field.
In the second period – the development of Slovak cardiology in the years 1931-1948 had accelerated when professor Jaroslav Sumbal (1890-1948) had become head of the Propedeutical Department of Medical Faculty of Comenius University (since 1945 known as the 2nd Department of Internal Medicine). Sumbal was deeply influenced by his research fellowship with professor Sir Thomas Lewis in London (1922-1923) and he systematically built Slovak cardiology as a new emerging subspecialty within internal medicine.
In the years 1949-1978, Sumbal´s assistant Vladimír Haviar (1911-1996) was the head of the 2nd Department of Internal Medicine, who further accelerated the development of Slovak cardiology bringing it to the third phase – its expansion. Haviar was the first Slovak president of CSSC (1955-1959) and after establishing the Slovak Society of Cardiology (SSC) he became its first president (1968-1973), as well. Haviar’s works about myocardial infarction in young patients preceded Selye’s theory on stress and its role in etiopathogenesis of coronary artery disease. In the late 1960s he was appointed a WHO expert in the issue of rehabilitation of cardiac patients and was charged with the arrangements of the 1st International Symposium on Epidemiology and Prevention of Atherosclerotic Disease and Premature Myocardial Infarction in 1966. Haviar, a participant of anti-fascism resistance, was a significant representative of public health and was active also in political life of former Czechoslovakia. He can be considered as the first modern Slovak cardiologist of international format.
In the fourth period (1979-1992) the development of cardiology as a separate medical specialty was accomplished based on redefining the curriculum of postgraduate training in cardiology. Most importantly, the objectives of governmental cardiovascular program in the Slovak Republic were implemented, in particular the establishment of the Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (ICVD), which was the only tertiary cardiovascular care center in Slovakia. (from 2006 the name was changed to National Cardiovascular Institute). The core of the Institute comprised the Department of Cardiology directed by Igor Riečanský and the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery directed by Ivan Šimkovic. These departments were created from the former 2nd Internal and the 2nd Surgical Departments of the Faculty of Medicine of CU. The first director of Institute was
P. Schneider followed by V. Čorňák, cardiac surgeon (1983-1989). After a transition period with several renowned cardiologists directing the Institute (among others professors Riečanský and Fabian), Mongi Msolly has been nominated as the first non-physician for the position of general director (since 2003) of the Institute which was transformed into shareholder company, currently owned by the Slovak government. The Institute moved to a new building in 1997 and has become with 224 beds the only center in Slovakia covering the entire spectrum of cardiovascular medicine for adults and children. In the years 1978-1990 a community program was carried out aiming at the detection of cardiovascular diseases and its risk factors in the population of Slovakia. The program was exceptional in terms of its extensity and the results were well received also abroad. It represents the only comprehensive view on cardiovascular epidemiologic situation in our country.
The Slovak cardiology, in the era of the independent Slovak Republic, entered its fifth stage in 1993. The establishment of the Eastern Slovak Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases in Košice (2003), the Middle Slovak Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases in Banská Bystrica (2002), and further cardiac centers in Prešov, Martin and Nitra ensured the accessibility of specialized cardiovascular care covering the whole country.
Roots of cardiology in Košice are associated with F. Pór (1899-1980), the head of the 1st Department of Internal Medicine (1948-1971), (later the 4th Department of Internal Medicine.) at University of P. J. Šafárik in Košice. Under the leadership of his successor, M. Takáč (1927-1999), this Department ranked among the leading workplaces in Czechoslovakia. He was a highly knowledgeable, experimental and clinical cardiologist, a long-standing vice president of the SSC, a member of the Committee of CSSC, an honorary member of SSC and CSSC. The well-known cardiologists, assistants of the 1st Department of Internal Medicine, include Kollár, Orčo, Matejíčková, Schweitzer. The internationally known nephrologist M. Mydlík (1932), head of the department in the years (1992-1997), maintained the progress of cardiology further which has continued thanks to Gonsorčík and Tkáč – younger co-workers of M. Takáč. Many other clinical and theoretical university workplaces also contributed to the good reputation of cardiology. In the first place, it was the Eastern Slovak Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases in Košice which originated from the cardio-centre operating since 1996. The first director of the institute was Studenčan (a cardiologist) and Sabol (a cardiac surgeon) is directing the Institute since several years. In 2009 the institute moved to new premises (177 beds) and became the base for education of the Faculty of Medicine at P.J. Šafárik University in Košice. Thanks to all these achievements the Institute offers up-to-date cardiovascular care corresponding to European standards.
In Banská Bystrica, cardiology was developing in the Internal Department of Roosevelt Hospital under the leadership of A. Sitár and his successor J. Hrnčiar (1928-2015), who accelerated the development of cardiology. Kaliská, Dálik, Škamla, Szentiványi, Hrnčiarová, M. Zajac, Dedič, Farský, Kovář, Vršanský, Seleštiansky, Vozár significantly contributed to the development of cardiology in this part of Slovakia. The development resulted in the establishment of the cardio-centre (1995), later (2002) in the Middle Slovak Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases in Banská Bystrica located since 2008 in a modern reconstrusted building. The institute is managed by general director J. Frajt (medical director is Gabriela. Kaliská, a highly respected lady-cardiologist in Slovakia) has 126 beds a provides care for more than 1.5 million inhabitants of Central Slovakia.
Cardiology in Prešov developed in internal departments of regional hospitals (Kissóczy, Šafrán, Dianovský, Linkesch, Grobauer, etc.). In 1998, the cardio-centre and in 2004 the Clinic of Cardiology were built, the latter becoming a base for theoretical studies at the University in Prešov. In May 2013, the cardio-centre with 43 beds moved into new premises of the Faculty Hospital. Until 2012, the head of the cardio-centre was Rynik, followed by Kmec. The interventional cardiology division is headed by Studenčan (since 2013).
Although the cardiac center in Nitra is located in the campus of the University Hospital, it is the only privately owned center in Slovakia (general manager Hranai). Soon after opening in 2007 the management was able to recruit several interventional cardiologist from Slovakia and Czech Republic and became specialized on the management of acute coronary syndromes in the referral area with approx. 1.5 million population. It ranks among Slovak centers with the highest volume of coronary interventions.
The cardiac center in Martin has been in operation since November 2007. It is part of the 1st Department of Internal Medicine of Jessenius Faculty of Medicine of CU headed by Mokáň and the head of cardiac center is Kovář. The center performs mainly coronary interventions in patients from northern and central Slovakai (approx. 1 million inhabitants).
Since the 50-ties of the last century the tradition of cardiology in Martin has been connected with the work of P. Steiner, one of the founders of Slovak cardiovascular surgery. D. Kulíšek belonged to his oldest co-workers (1922-2012), the honorary member of CSSC). Cardiology in Martin was further shaped by Jurko (1934), prominenet pediatric cardiologist; Špaňár and (1922-2002) and Květenský (1929-2009), both former heads of the Department of Internal Medicine in the University Hospital, and currently by Farský, focusing on preventive cardiology (1946), the vice-chairman of the first board of the SSC (1993-1997), the president Slovak league of hypertension.
In Bratislava, besides the 2nd Department of Internal Medicine, other internal departments dealt with cardiology, too. At the 1st Department of Internal Medicine, Dérer´s successor Ondrejička (1910-1995) dealt with the research of central and peripheral hemodynamics and its therapeutic intervention. He was one of the leading Czechoslovak internists, the chief internist of Slovakia (1960-1965), the chairman of the Slovak Society of Internal Medicine and Czechoslovak Society of Internal Medicine, the scientific director of the Scientific Council of the Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic, the chairman of SSC and CSSC in 1973-1977. Balažovjech (1936) continued in the development of hypertensiology. He is the author of the first hypertension monograph, founder and the president of Slovak Society of Hypertension (SSH), the vice-president of SSC, the head of the 2nd Department of Internal Medicine of Faculty of Medicine of CU (1990-2001). J. Pecháň (1935-1997) worked out the radionuclide diagnostics of cardiovascular diseases at an international level. Murín, a significant representative of Czechoslovak internal medicine and cardiology, the president of SSC and the Slovak Society of Internal Medicine, brought about new knowledge on the role of echocardiography in heart failure and coronary syndrome. Remková (1954) is known abroad for her works on hypertension and prothrombotic state in cardiovascular diseases. Since 2015 she has been the Dean of Faculty of Medicine of Slovak Medical University in Bratislava.
In 1956 the 3rd Department of Internal Medicine was established, headed by Niederland (1915-2003). He was a disciple of Sumbal (in Bratislava) and Hyněk (in Prague), chairman of the Scientific Council of Ministry of Health, president of the Slovak Medical Association (SkMA) and Czechoslovak Medical Society. Gvozdják (1926-2000) was the second head of the 3rd Department, one of the most important personalities of Czechoslovak cardiology and an international authority in the field of cardiomyopathy metabolism. He was a WHO and ESC (European Society of Cardiology) expert, the co-founder of SSC and the president of SSC and CSSC (1977-1993). Bada (1943), the third head of the Department, focused mainly on myocardial metabolism, heart failure and preventive cardiology. He was also a longstanding SSC committee member and its vice-president, he is known as the author of great popular publications on cardiology. Dzúrik (1929-2014) was an internationally highly recognized clinical scientist in the field of internal medicine and authored important scientific works on kidney relation to hypertension, diabetes, thrombogenesis in the process of atherosclerosis. He served as president of the Slovak Society of Nephrology, president of the SkMA. Mojto (1954), head of the Department since 2014, continues in its cardiological and metabolic orientation.
The first head of the Department of Internal Medicine of the Municipal Hospital in Bratislava was professor Holomáň (1908-1993), the chief internist of Slovakia (1965-1982), the co-author of the concept of cardiology and its organizational structure. His successor was professor Cagáň (1932-2006), head of the 4th Department of Internal Medicine at the CU(1980-1998), member of the group which introduced selective coronary angiography into clinical practice in Czechoslovakia, representative of Czechoslovak electrocardiology, initiator of the concept of myocardial infarction treatment, former scientific secretary of SSC and Board member of CSSC, as well as former president of the Slovak Society of Internal Medicine and co-president of the Czechoslovak Society of Internal Medicine.
Former heads of the Department of Physiatry and chairmen of the Slovak Society for Physiatry, Balneology and Medical Rehabilitation Hensel (1908-1983) and Kolesár (1924-2004) were among the first in Europe to develop and implement modern rehabilitation care for patients after myocardial infarction and for hypertensive patients. Palát (1923-2014) was a member of the Presidium of International Federation on Research in Rehabilitation, the author of Czechoslovak books on rehabilitation, an SSC committee member, and an honorary member of CSSC. From those who worked at this Department, we shall mention: Mikeš (1940), the leading personality of Czechoslovak and foreign geriatric cardiology, the head of Department of Geriatrics, the president of the International Society Heart Friends Around the World (1992-1997), the secretary of Clinical Section in the European Geriatrics Society, the president of the Slovak Society of Gerontology and Slovak Society for Physiatrics, Balneology and Medical Rehabilitation, honorary member of the SSC and owner many honours of the SkMA. Dukát (1950) was head of the 2nd Department of Internal Medicine (2001-2012), the chief internist of the Slovak Republic (2002-2007), the president of the Slovak Society of Internal Medicine (2007-2011), a member of the European Federation Executive Committee for Internal Medicine, an honorary member of SSC, SSH and of the Slovak Society of Angiology. Ľudovít Gašpar (1956) present head of the 2nd Department of internal medicine (since 2012), one from leading persons of the Slovak angiology.
The chapter “Profiles of Other Prominent Representatives of Slovak cardiology” lists those who have contributed to the development of Slovak cardiology and its international recognition. Július Kasper (1928-1996) was a pioneer of cardiac pacing in Slovakia, the member of ESC board for cardiostimulation, honorary member of the board of the SSC (1969-1993), honorary member of SSC and CSSC. Juraj Fabián (1935-2010) first pioneered as ESC expert interventional cardiology and heart transplantation in Prague, he served as the scientific secretary of Czech Society of Cardiology (CSC) and CSSC. After coming to Bratislava in 1990 he became director of The National Cardiovascular Institute (1993-1997). He was in charge of the first heart transplantation with long-term success in the Eastern Block (Prague 1984) and in Slovakia (Bratislava 1998), he was honorary member of SSC and CSSC. Lipták (1919-2012) was a pioneer in indicating surgical treatment of cardiovascular diseases, as well as the founder of Slovak Society of Angiology. Needless to say, he was the author of the first monographs, such as Coronary Syndrome (1960, 1968), Congenital Heart and Vessel Diseases (1973). Prónay (1912-1981) was the founding member of SSC, the vice president of SSC, and lest we forget an honorary member of CSSC. Pavlovič (1931) was the chief internist of the Slovak Republic (1991-2000), the leading figure of postgraduate training in internal medicine and cardiology, and an honorary member of SSC and SSH, as well as the author of cardiac chapters in the textbooks of internal medicine. I. Pecháň (1932-2010), professor of biochemistry at the Faculty of Medicine at CU in Bratislava, was a cardiology-oriented clinical biochemist focused on myocardial metabolism and myocardial protection, he served as president of the Slovak Society of Clinical Biochemistry, he gained international reputation and was honorary member of SSC and likewise a member of Austrian, German and Czech clinical biochemistry societies.
Significant representatives of the Slovak pediatric cardiology include: Hečko (1900-1981), the first Slovak pediatric cardiologist, a university teacher; Jakubcová (1910-1995), the founder and creator of Pediatric cardiology. Under her leadership, the 1st Department of Pediatrics of the Faculty of Medicine at CU in Bratislava became (1953-1975) the leading cardiology department in the whole of Czechoslovakia. She is the author of the first Slovak textbook Pediatric Cardiology (1978), an honorary member of SSC, SSSC, Polish Society of Cardiology; Birčák (1923-2011), the head of the 1st Department of Pediatrics (1975-1989), a pioneer in functional cardiovascular diagnostics, the president of the Slovak and Czechoslovak Pediatric Society, an honorary member of SSC and CSSC. Prof. Amplatz´s co-worker Formánek (1921-1995), a world known expert in cardiovascular radiology, introduced coronarography in Czechoslovakia (1967-1968); Mašura (1950), the world pioneer in transcutaneous closure of atrial septal defect with an Amplatzer septal occluder (1995) in Bratislava and a internationally highly cited Slovak cardiologist in scientific literature. Other contributors to the development of pediatric cardiology include: Černay, Meško, Maliariková, Vanžurová, Augustinová, Benedeková, Čižmárová, Haľamová, Gvozdjáková, Vršanská, Milovský, Kunovský, Hrebík, Čulen, Jurko Sr., Jurko Jr., Čekovský, Podracká, Šimurka, Schusterová, etc.
Since the fifties of the previous century, a rapid development of Slovak cardiovascular surgery has been observed. It took less than a decade to approach European standards. The first successful mitral valve commisurolysis was performed by Steiner (1908-1969) in 1953 and the first successful pulmonalis embolectomy in Central Europe in 1968. The crucial role was taken by the 2nd Department of Surgery of Faculty of Medicine at CU, with the academic Šiška (1906-2000), and this Department ranked among famous European centers. In 1959, the site reached the European pole position in the operations of mitral stenosis in extracorporeal circulation. In 1958, Šiška performed the first successful operation of atrial septal defect in Czechoslovakia, and as the 17th in the world. Šimkovic (1919-2007), the most eminent of Šiška´s disciples performed a number of priority operations in Czechoslovakia, such as: post-infarction resection of left ventricular aneurysm (1961), implantation of caged-ball valve into aortic and mitral orifice (1964), aortocoronary venous bypass (1969). Hupka (1916-1984) was among the first in the world to design the method of replacing human valves by homotransplant and experimental method orthothopic heart transplantation in dogs. Kužela (1926-1980) after spending a fellowship with proeminent cardiac surgeon professor Gerbode (Presbyterian Hospital-Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco) was the chief surgeon to perform human heart transplantation in Central and Eastern Europe (in 1968, 25th transplantation in the world). The younger generation of Bratislava school is represented by: Čorňák (1934), former fellow in the University Hospital in Göttingen (Germany), director of the Institute of Cardiovascular diseases in Bratislava (1983-1989) and co-founder of the cardiac centre in Košice. After setting-up an appropriate infrastructure for a comprehensive heart transplantation program in Slovakia by Fabian, cardiac surgeon Fischer (1938), performed the first successful transplantation in 1998. Holomáň (1940), Šefránek (1944), both played an important role in the development of modern vascular surgery. Siman (1933-2008), a cardiac surgeon with wide focus later concentrated on pediatric cardiac surgery, which was not avalaible in Slovakia until early nineties when Children´s Heart center was founded
In 1998, he performed the first heart transplantation in a child. Viktor Hraška, first chief cardiac surgeon in this center is currently among
world leaders in pediatric cardiac surgery. After spending several years as chief cardiac surgeon in the German Pediatric Heart Center in Sankt Augustin close to Bonn, Germany, he recently moved to Milwaukee, USA where he was appointed director of one of the largest pediatric cardiac surgery programs in the USA. With such career is Hraška without doubt currently one of the most eminent cardiovascular physicians from Slovakia.
Matejíček (1920-2013), former rector of the Pavel Jozef Šafárik University in Košice was for decades an important representative of Slovak surgery. In the 70 - 80-ties he served for 15 years as minister of healthcare and from this position he supported the development of cardiovaskular medicine in the Slovak part of former Czechoslovakia.
The beginnings of experimental cardiology in Slovakia are represented by the anatomist Frank (1892-1929) and the physiologist Hanák (1891-1935). However, the real founder of Slovak physiology was Antal (1912-1996). He achieved a worldwide recognition mostly for his study of cardiovascular system adaptation during muscular movement in dogs, with which he significantly enriched the modern Pavlovian physiological school. Netoušek (1889-1968) was the founder of research in the field of pathophysiology focusing his experiments on clinical problems. In the direction of cardiovascular research, Mačela (1891-1952), Šimer (1899-1943), Bárdoš (1908-1961) and his students and followers Barta (1929-1991), Nikš (1927- 1979), Fízeľ (1930-1990), Zlatoš (1940-2015), Hulín (1938) and Bernadič (1952) continued in his footsteps.
The Institute of Normal and Pathological Physiology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAS) has achieved valuable results in neural and humoral regulation mechanisms of cardiovascular system (Gerová, Gero, Smieško, Törek, Pecháňová, Kellerová, Kristek and others). Ruttkay-Nedecký (1926) along with Szatmáry and Bachárová achieved recognition in research on electric field of the heart. Ruttkay and Bachárová were the presidents of the International Society of Electrocardiology (ISE).
The Institute of Experimental Surgery SAS (founder Šiška), since 1990 Institute for Heart Research, was the basis for developing cardiac surgery. The construction of the original device for the extracorporeal circulation was of essential significance (Bolf, Šimkovic) (1956-1957). The Institute focuses on the study of protective mechanisms of the circulation adaptation of acute and chronic stimuli (preconditioning ischemia, inflammatory ionization myocardial injury) on the molecular level. In this area, a number of original results have been revealed (Holec, Slezák, Styk, Gabauer, Ziegelhoffer, Ravingerová, Barančík and others).
Pharmacologists significantly contributed to the scientific foundation of the Slovak cardiology. Polák (1886-1955), professor of Pharmacology at the Faculty of Medicine at CU, the founder of Pharmacology of Slovakia and the teacher of the best-known pharmacologist F. Švec (1906-1976). F. Švec, with his works about digitalis glycoside, ranks among the leading world experts. Out of the next generation the specialists known abroad embrace in particular: Kovalčík (1925-1983), Hrdina (1929-2005), Kriška (1940), Incinger (1926-1996), Bózner (1937-1993), P. Švec (1940-2015), Kyselovič (1963), Beneš (1937), Bauer (1942), Nosáľ (1941). The last three functioned as directors of the Institute of Experimental Pharmacology of SAS.
International priority results in the study of the effect of endocrine regulation on the circulation were achieved at the Institute of Experimental Endocrinology of SAS, in particular by Lichardus and Németh et al. in clarifying the regulation of body fluid volume. The groups of Mikulaj, Kvetňanský, Macho, Vigaš and Ježová acghieved international reputation in research of stress and adaptation to stress.
The chapter on “Selected issues” focuses on:
Psychosomatic relation to cardiovascular medicine. Research in this area has a long tradition and brought about new clinically significant findings mainly due to Zikmund Ruttkay-Nedecký, Pogády, Cagáň, Riečanský, Štefanovič, Breier, etc. and clinical psychologists – Kondáš, Stančák, Skorodenský, Selko and others.
Epidemiology and prevention of cardiovascular diseases comprising domestic preventive community programs, epidemiological studies which are associated with names such as: Haviar, Kollár, Takáč, Riečanský, Červenka, Egnerová, Kusá, Čižmárová, Avdičová, Baráková, Jurkovičová, Kamenský, Murín, Balažovjech, Sninčák and many others.
Cardiovascular ultrasound methods: Slovak echocardiography contributed importantly to clinical implementation of ultrasonographic methods in former Czechoslovakia (Šimo, Riečanský, Zatkalík, Kamenský, Šefara, Mašura, Dedič, Studenčan, Lipták, Kubiš, Murín, Havlínová, Chňupa, Šimková, Podracký, Valočik and others). The fundamental works on echocardiography were performed and presented mainly by members of the staff of the 2nd Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine at CU (1975-1976). Cardiology was the first field of internal medicine in which the ultrasound was introduced into routine practice nationwide. At that time it was in close close cooperation with Czech experts, in particular with J. Hůla (1923-1998), who pioneered ultrasound imaging by using an industrial ultrasonic apparatus (“defectoscope”) in clinical settings (Plzeň, 1967).
Arterial hypertension as a modern epidemics was always given adequate priority by the SSC. The working group for hypertension was transformed into an independent society - the SSH in 1997, which is an active member of ESH. The former presidents of SSH were: Balažovjech (1997-2004), Riečanský (2004-2008) and currently Filipová (since 2009).
The Czechoslovak Society of Cardiology was established in 1929 by Libeňský as the second in Europe (the German Society was founded in 1927) and the third in the world (the American Society in 1924). The 1st Cardiology Congress of CSSC with international participation in Prague (1933) was not only a historical event but also a true milstone since it was the first international cardiology congress in the world. In the years 1929-1939 Slovak cardiology in the Committee of CSSC was represented by Hynek and Sumbal. The second president of CSSC was Weber (1939). During the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia CSSC dissolved and remained to operate as Czech Society of Cardiology (CSC). Slovakia did not have it’s scientific society of cardiology during the time of World War II. Honorary members of CSSC (1929-1939) were among others H. Vaquez, A. Clerc, Ch. Laubry (all from France), T. Lewis (England), P.D. White (USA), F. Mareš, V. Libenský, J. Pelnář (all from Czechoslovakia).
In 1946 CSSC was reestablished and existed until the end of 1992, when Czechoslovakia was divided into two independent countries – the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. The presidents of the society were in chronological order: Mentl (1946-1947), Herles (1947-1951), Weber (1951-1955), Haviar (1955-1959), Lukl (1959-1971). The federal structure of Czechoslovakia (1968-1992) has brought about greater autonomy for the SSC. The presidents of SSC were Haviar (1968-1973), Ondrejička (1973-1977), Gvozdják (1977-1993); the presidents of CSC were Lukl (1968-1971) Reiniš (1971-1981), Dufek (1981-1990), Staněk (1990-1992). The scientific secretaries of the SSC were Gvozdják (1968-1977), Cagáň (1977-1981), Riečanský (1981-1992). The function of scientific secretary of CSSC was held by Linhart (1969-1971), Hammer (1971-1973), Dufek (1973-1981), Fabián (1981-1990), Bytešník (1990-1992). These ambassadors of SSC and CSC also represented the CSSC abroad (rotation in the 2-years
period during 1968-1992).
In period from 1968 to 1972 there was Lukl the president of the ESC, in 1972 was appointed its honorary president.
From 1947 to 1987 the CSSC organized 18 national congresses (table 1, p. 130). 6 congresses were held in Slovakia. The first post-war congress was in the spa Sliač in 1947. The chairman of the congress was Sumbal. Other congresses were organized in in the High Tatras in Starý Smokovec (High Tatras, 1950) and Tatranská Lomnica (1960). Three congresses were held in Bratislava: the 13th congress with international participation in 1967, with Haviar as the chairman, the 15th congress in 1976 and the 18th congress with international participation in 1987 with Ondrejička and Gvozdják as chairmen, respectively. The congress that was to be organized by CSSC in the year 1991 was not held eventually. In the period between congresses, the Czechoslovak Cardiology Days were organized every year, the last ones taking place in 1992.
Among many important scientific events organized in Slovakia before 1993 in cooperation with the CSSC following events should not be forgotten: International Symposium on Hypertrophy of the Heart Muscle (Sliač 1970), Physical Exercise – Cardiovascular Function (Bratislava, 1978, 1981, 1984, 1987), The 10th International Electro-cardiologic Congress (Bratislava 1983), The International Symposium on Cardio-myopathy (Bratislava 1985), The International Seminar on “Recent Advances in Cardiology” (Bratislava 1988) in cooperation with the ESC.
From 1959 to 1992, the only international cardiology Current Contents journal of the Eastern socialist countries “Cor et Vasa” was published in Czechoslovakia. The international editorial board comprised several Slovak cardiologists: Haviar, Birčák, Gvozdják, Takáč, Čižmárová, Riečanský. From 1974 to 1993, CSC and SSC published a domestic journal – Cardiovascular Newsletter – “Cardio”. In the editorial board of this journal Gvozdják and Riečanský represented the SSC. The 1st Slovak cardiology journal “Noninvasive Cardiology” began to be published in 1991 with Kamenský as publisher and editor-in-chief. Under a new name “Cardiology” it appeared in the bulletin for SSC and SSH in 1997. Until 2010 Kamenský was the editor-in-chief. Since that year the journal is owned and published by SSC, with Hulín as the editor-in-chief. In 2011 the journal has been renamed to an internationally more unique title “Cardiology Letters”. A broader editorial board comprises also representatives of 12 foreign cardiological societies. Since 2005 the journal has been indexed in the Scopus database.
The establishment of SSC in Bratislava in May 1968 is a milestone in the development of Slovak cardiology. Slovak cardiology received a significant new decentralized structure which was by far more appropriate to stimulate its growth and its impact on medical community. SSC held annually 4-5 conferences with an annual average involvement of 120 to 150 participants, of whom many were of national importance. Dramatically increased interest in cardiology led to an increase in its membership. The number reached 700 at the end of the first decade. It strengthened the cooperation with CSC. The Board has consistently been devoted to the education of young cardiologists. Since 1978 an Evening of Young Cardiologists was organized every year within the Association of Slovak Physicians in Bratislava until 1994. The Association worked closely with the SSC and since then the cardiology issues have been very frequent program topics. The highest number of participants – 223 was recorded at the meeting of the Association dedicated to cardiovascular program. Later, the Competition of Young Cardiologists was included in the SSC congress programs. In order to stimulate professional growth of physicians-in-training in cardiology, the SSC has created in 2010 a new working group “Forum of Young Cardiologists.” Young cardiologists organize biannually their meeting with high interactive educational value.
Further acceleration of cardiology development was observed in the second decade of existence of the SSC when it became the main intellectual executive body behind the cardiovascular program which comprised: establishment of the Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, the reform of postgraduate training and education in cardiology, angiology and cardiovascular surgery within the new concept of the field. The membership base grew steadily reaching up 1300 members in 1998. In 1991 the Children’s Cardiology Centre was opened, providing diagnosis and treatment of congenital heart disease in Slovakia. In the years 1991-1992 the SSC organized several international events with representative participation of foreign lecturers, among others: 9th European Conference of Noninvasive Cardiology, three international symposia on echocardiography, a Symposium on Atherosclerosis, Electrocardiography, and Lecture Day of Specialists from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Due to the wide spectrum of educational and scientific activities developed over the years, the SSC has ranked among the leading medical professional societies in Slovakia.
In the era of the independent Slovak Republic from 1 January 1993 after the division of Czechoslovakia, the activity of SSC has changed completely. The society became the only sovereign representative of Slovak cardiology. In August 1993, SSC was accepted as a member of the European Society of Cardiology, which significantly intensified contacts with foreign societies of cardiology. A new 15 member SSC board was established: Bada, Cagáň, Čižmárová, Dukát, Fabián, Fridrich, Jurko Sr., Kaliská, Kamenský, Mikes, Murín. Riečanský was elected the president, Filipová as the scientific secretary, the vice-presidents being Balažovjech and Farský. Between 1994 and 2015 the SSC held 20 congresses and 2 conferences (table 4, pg. 164) with broad participation of foreign lecturers. The invited lecturers, mostly representatives of the Committees of the European Society of Cardiology (ECS) and national societies of cardiology, were the following: Čerbák, Pool-Wilson, Breithardt, Weber, Steinbach, Nadeau, Hradec, Scherlag, Stefenelli, Brignole, Tendera, Ruzyllo, Maurer, Schweitzer, Lüderitz, Boudolas, Aschermann, Ferrari, Torbicky, Fras, P.Widimský, Fodor, Lopez- Jimenez, Komajda, Mc Donagh, Varda, DiMario, Zehender, Pinto and Atar. The cardiologists from Hungary, Poland, Austria and Germany regularly take part in congresses; however, the most intense professional contacts are with the CSC (the blocks of lectures in congresses of both societies and the traditional meetings of working groups).
The most important international events organized at home or under the sponsorship of SSC include: The 13th European Conference of International Society of Non-Invasive Cardiology (ISNC) 1995 (Roelandt, Kesteloot, Riečanský, Kamenský); Cardiovascular Symposium in Cooperation with American and Austrian cardiologists 1995 (Pepine, Castelli, Steinbach, Hatala); 2nd and 3rd Central European Symposium on Echocardiology 1994, 1996 (Kisslo, Seward, Kamenský); Workshop about catheter ablation of arrhythmias 1997 (Borgreffe, Kuck, Hatala); The 24th International Electrocardiographic Congress 1997 (Ruttkay-Nedecký, Bachárová); Conference “Cardiology Update” from the organization Heart Friends Around the World 1997 (Burgarella, Slezák, Mikeš); The International Course of ESC “Myocardial Ischemiaand Heart Failure” 1998 (Remme, Riečanský); The International Symposium on the Adaptation of the Heart and on Basic Cardiovascular Research 2000, 2010, 2014 (Slezák); The 41th International Electro-cardiologic Congress 2014 (Bachárová). A remarkable series of lectures of renowned foreign experts in seminars organized by the Working Group on Heart and Lungs Transplantation at the National Cardiovascular Institute (Fabián, Goncalvesová) has a more than 20-year old tradition. Other lecturers include Ch. Barnard in 1995 and E. Braunwald, in 2004. Both were honored by Comenius University, the former received the Great Golden Medal and the latter the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa.
Since 1999, the SSC has been organizing bi-annual “Expert Meeting” and since 2002 this event was transformed into “Tatra Cardiologic Days”. They are among the most popular domestic symposia attracting over 400 participants and focused on postgraduate education in cardiovascular medicine, regularly hosting also renowned international speakers.
In 1994, the SSC has become a member of the Alpe Adria Association of Cardiology (AAAC). In the first scientific Board of the AAAC Slovakia was represented by Balažovjech, Fabián and Riečanský. In 1998, the SSC successfully organized together with SSH the 6th Meeting of AAAC in Bratislava (president Riečanský), in 2005 the 13th Meeting in Piešťany (president Hatala) and in 2012 the 20th Jubilee Meeting in Bratislava (president Goncalvesová). The AAAC served for several years mainly as an opportunity for young cardiologists from Central Europe for presentation of their work at an international forum.
Following are brief personal characteristics of the presidents of the SSC since 1993 when the society has become independent:
Igor Riečanský, MD, DrSc (born1938, president in 1993-1997), a graduate of the Faculty of Medicine pf the CU, professor of internal medicine at the Faculty of Medicine of CU in Bratislava (1995), 1979-2008 Head of the Department of Cardiology and Angiology at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases and chairman of the Chair of Cardiology and Angiology at Faculty of Medicine of the Slovak Medical University (SMU) in Bratislava , the founder of the clinical echocardiography in Czechoslovakia (1975-1976), a member of the CSSC Committee, an intermittent Scientific Secretary of CSSC (1981-1992), chief expert of the Slovak Republic for Cardiology (1979-2005), a member of the ISNC European Committee (1985), a fellow of the ESC, fellow of the American Society of Angiology, the American Society of Hypertension, a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, an honorary member of the CSSC, the Czech Medical Association J.E. Purkyně, the Slovak Medical Association (SkMA), the Hungarian Society of Cardiology, the Croatian Society of Cardiology, member of the Collegium of Medical Sciences of SAS.
Robert Hatala, MD, PhD (born 1955, president in 1998-2003 and acting president for the term 2016-2018 ), a graduate of the Faculty of Medicine of the Comenius University, professor of internal medicine and cardiology at the Faculty of Medicine of CU (2001), head of the Department of Cardiology and Angiology of the Faculty of Medicine of the SMU (since 2008) and director of the Department of Arrhythmias and Pacing of the National Cardiovascular Institute in Bratislava. He was the founder and president of the Slovak Heart Rhythm Association (2007-2015), he served as Board member of the European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA 2011-2013), member of the Scientific Collegium for Medical Sciences of the SAS, a member of the Scientific Boards of the CU and the SMU. He co-introduced radiofrequency catheter ablation at centers in Canada, and Austria and eventually founded modern interventional arrhythmology in Slovakia. As leading European specialist in arrythmology and internationally renowned invited speaker, he is honorary member of the SSC, CSC, the Hungarian Society of Cardiology, fellow of the ESC, fellow of the American College of Cardiology, awardee of the golden medal of SkMA.
Gabriel Kamenský, MD, PhD (born 1954, president 2004-2006), head of Dept. of Noninvasive Cardiovascular Diagnostics at University hospital in Bratislava and associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine of CU (2003), an internationally known expert in cardiovascular ultrasound, served in the nineties as scientific secretary of the ISNC European Committee. He is the founder (1991) and first editor-in-chief of the first Slovak cardiologic journal Noninvasive Cardiology, later transformed to Cardiology (1991-2000) and eventually to Cardiology Letters. Since 2005 he has been the chief expert for cardiology at the Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic, Governor of the Slovak Heart Foundation, and the principal coordinator of the National Prevention CV Program (2010-2013), fellow of the ESC.
Ján Murín, MD, PhD (born 1949, president in 2007-2009), a graduate of the Faculty of Medicine of CU, professor of internal medicine at the Faculty of Medicine of CU (2001), former deputy head of the 1st Department of Internal Medicine, and important representative of Czechoslovak internal medicine and cardiology. He serve as president of the Slovak Society of Internal Medicine (SSIM), (2001-2005), he is fellow of European Federation of Internal Medicine, fellow of the American College of Physicians, honorary member of the SSC, CSC, holder of prestigious SkMA awards, a member of the Commission for the care for decompensated patients of the European Heart Failure Association of the ESC.
Eva Goncalvesová, MD, PhD (born 1962, president in 2010-2012), a graduate of Faculty of Medicine of Comenius University, associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine of CU (2003). She is since 2008 head of the Department of Heart Failure and Heart Transplantation and Director of the Centre for Pulmonary Hypertension, at National Cardiovascular Institute in Bratislava. She chairs the Scientific Board of this Institute. Since 2003 she is board member of the SSC. She enjoys international scientific and clinical reputation as renowned heart failure expert and is currently member of the ESC Committee for EU Relations. She is honorary member of the SSC and CSC and fellow of the ESC.
iveta Šimková, MD, PhD (born 1956, president in 2013-2015), a graduate of Faculty of Medicine of Comenius University, professor of internal medicine at the Slovak Medical University, deputy head of Department of Cardiology and Angiology (2010) and vice-dean at the Faculty of Medicine of the Slovak Medical University (2011), member of the Scientific Board of the SMU, member of the Accreditation Commission for Internal Medicine of the Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic. She is an international expert in echocardiography with focus on acquired and congenital defects of the heart and pulmonary hypertension, a member of the Commissions of the European Echocardiographic Association, the European Association for CV Imaging (EACVI) ESC, a representative of the SSC in International CTEPH Association (Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension), an honorary member of the SSC and CSC, an ECS fellow, and an ACC fellow.
The evolution of the SSC, its activities and international position within the ESC during the timeline of independent Slovak Republic is a true success story, especially after the year 2000. The society has a stabilized membership with over 850 members and has built a leading position among domestic medical scientific societies with the largest medical annual congress in Slovakia attracting up to 1500 participants including not only cardiologists but also other internal medicine specialist and general practitioners. The SSC has become accepted as an official partner of the government, health insurance companies and medical faculties. Its systematic efforts in high-quality postgraduate and non-institutionalized education are highly acknowledged and considered irreplaceable. The SSC publishes its own scientific journal cited in international databases. The Slovak Society of Cardiology is among active members of largest international scientific associations – mainly the ESC, the World Heart Federation and European Union of Medical Specialists. Several experts from the SSC have contributed as co-authors to important clinical guidelines published by the ESC serving as accepted standards of care in Europe. The SSC has all the necessary essnetials in terms of scientific and clinical leadership, human potential and financial stability for further expansion and success.
Used abbreviations (in aplhabetic order):
AAAC – Alpe Adria Association of Cardiology
CSC – Czech Society of Cardiology
CSSC – Czechoslovak Society of Cardiology
CU – Comenius University
ESC – European Society of Cardiology
SAS – Slovak Academy of Sciences
SkMA – Slovak Medical Association
SSC – Slovak Society of Cardiology
SMU – Slovak Medical University