I attended as a participant several of the early EFNS regional meetings and congresses: the first EFNS regional meeting 1993 in Berlin – a small event with 1000 participants, the 2nd EFNS Congress in Rome 1996 where the number of participants increased to 2000; and the regional EFNS meeting in Prague in 1997 which hosted 1000 neurologists. My activities for the EFNS started after my nomination as chairman of the Congress Programme Committee in 1993 and I was responsible for the programme of the congress in Seville in 1994, a congress that could count on more than 4000 participants – which also marked the first financial success of an EFNS congress – and for the following EFNS Congresses in Lisbon, Copenhagen and the work in London. It was a great honor for me to be elected President of the EFNS at the Copenhagen Congress in 2000 and to follow Jes Olesen in this position after the London congress of 2001. One of the first tasks I was confronted with was to negotiate a cooperation or even fusion with the European Neurological Society – which at that time resulted impossible due to the different interests and structure of the two societies. I am very pleased that this fusion will now be reached. The greatest event for me as president of EFNS was the 2002 congress in Vienna, Austria –a special privilege for me as I studied medicine in Vienna, received my training and built up my career until 1978. I vividly remember the opening of the congress at the Konzerthaus (where I attended many impressive concerts before) and the reception and wonderful ball in the Rathaus. For me, as an Austrian citizen, the congress in Vienna was a special highlight.
The following congresses under my presidency, Helsinki in 2003, Paris in 2004 and Athens in 2005 were also events I very much enjoyed. During all these years EFNS found its own profile as a federation of European national neurological societies, established well-structured congresses and developed a programme to bring the management of patients with diseases of the nervous system to an equally high level in all European countries. For that purpose a large number of teaching courses was organised in various countries and support was given to young neurologists for attendance of congresses, teaching courses and visiting of institutions in other countries for additional training. For the establishment of the EFNS it was also important to own an office in the centre of Europe, and this office became the organisational focus of all activities. In the time of my presidency the EFNS had to suffer a great loss: Friederike Susanne Tschabitscher, who assisted in the formation of the EFNS and was essential for its organisation and was the soul and brain of the organisation, died on July 23rd 2003. In honor and in acknowledgement of her special efforts to support trainees and young neurologists the “Uschi Tschabitscher Prize for Young Neurologists” was founded. This prize is awarded to the best tournament presentations at each EFNS Congress. At the Congress in Athens 2005 I handed over the grown and strong EFNS to my successor and the next president of EFNS, Jacques de Reuck.
Wolf-Dieter Heiss is Professor of Neurology in Cologne, Germany and was EFNS President from 2001-2005.