The Czech Republic is situated in Central Europe and covers an area of 78,866 square kilometres. It is a unitary parliamentary republic hosting 10.6 million inhabitants. Prague is the capital and largest city with 1.3 million residents.
The Czech Republic includes the historical territories of Bohemia, Moravia, and part of Silesia. The Czech state was formed in the late 9th century as the Duchy of Bohemia under the Great Moravian Empire. In the 19th century, the Czech lands became the industrial powerhouse of the monarchy and were subsequently the core of the Republic of Czechoslovakia, which was formed in 1918 following the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I. On January 1st 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved with its two constituent states becoming the independent states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Czech Republic is an excellent example of European diversity, since in such a small area a number of completely diverse regions come easily and respectfully together. There are thermal springs in the west, mountains and remarkable “rock towns” in the north, a wistful landscape of fishponds in the south, and sunny vineyards in the southeast. There are also historic towns, unique castles and chateaux, spas with centuries of tradition, thousands of kilometers of excellently marked trails for hikers and cyclists, and great opportunities for business meetings. The Czech Republic and its capital offer many protected cultural monuments, cities and villages. Some of them are on the UNESCO list of world cultural and natural heritage sites.
Prague, the capital, city of hundred spires on the Vltava River, is known to people from all around the world. Prague consistently ranks among the world´s most popular destinations. At the same time, the Czech capital has a number of additional key advantages which have led to its prolific rise as a congress destination. Prague has been a political, cultural and economic center of central Europe and has a very rich history. Founded during the Roman era and flourished throughout the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque eras, Prague was the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia and the main residence of several Holy Roman Emperors, most notably of Charles IV (1346–1378). Prague was also an important city to the Habsburg Monarchy and its Austro-Hungarian Empire. Prague is home to a number of famous cultural attractions, many of which survived the violence and destruction of the 20th century. Main attractions include the Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square with the Prague astronomical clock, the Jewish Quarter, Petřín Hill and Vyšehrad.
After 1890, at the Charles University in Prague, neurology began to separate from psychiatry and internal medicine. Arnold Pick (1851-1924) led the German clinical department of psychiatry from 1886. He is renowned for subscribing the clinical picture and neuropathological changes in one form of presenile dementia.
In the same department, in 1907, Oskar Fischer (1876-1942) was the first to describe the neuritic plaques in senile dementia later called Alzheimer’s disease. Ladislav Haškovec (1866-1944), one of the last students of J.-M. Charcot at La Salpetrière in Paris was the founder of Czech neurology as an independent specialty and the first habilitated Czech neurologist (1896). Since 1937, the Department of Neurology was taken over by Kamil Henner (1895-1967), who built an extensive school and after 1945, his pupils became heads of the newly established neurological departments throughout Czechoslovakia. For example, Ivan Lesný (1914-2002) became a founder of Czechoslovakia child’s neurology, Václav Vojta (1917-2000) authored the renowned method of reflex therapy for cerebral palsy, Jan Jirout (1912-2001) contributed significantly to neuroradiology, and Bedřich Roth (1918-1989) is renowned for sleep research. Nowadays, the Department of Neurology and Centre of Clinical Neuroscience, the First Faculty of Medicine Charles University and the General University Hospital continues to operate in the historic building of Pick’s clinic (originally St. Catherine Convent) and maintains a leading workplace tradition in the diagnosis, therapy, and research of movement disorders, sleep disorders, multiple sclerosis, neurorehabilitation and clinical neuropsychology. The tradition started by Kamil Henner remains preserved in the department despite significant political changes, and nowadays the department bears his name to express the gratitude of his followers. In the recent era, the department was headed by prof. Jiři Tichý (1990-1996), prof. Soňa Nevšímalová (1996-2006) and since 2006 it is headed by prof. Evžen Růžička.
The second neurological department in the Czech Republic (the first one in Moravia) started in 1919, as a part of the Department of Internal Medicine and Neurology in Brno. Since the very beginning, this department played a crucial role at the newly constituted Masaryk University and its Faculty of Medicine. Three years later, prof. Bělohradský joined psychiatry and neurology in Brno and renewed the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology.
But it was after WWII when neurology emancipated and in 1948 prof. Popek established the Department of Neurology at St. Anne´s Hospital and Masaryk University. Enormous development in the life of department started after the Velvet Revolution (1989) when prof. Rektor chaired it (1992-2012). Since 2013 prof. Brázdil serves as the Department´s chair.
In addition, there are currently eight other university neurology departments: three in Prague – Motol University Hospital, University Hospital Královské Vinohrady and Thomayer’s University Hospital, University Hospital Pilsen, Hradec Králové, Olomouc, the second clinic of neurology in Brno and the youngest in Ostrava.
Activity and strong positions of neurologists within the academic medical community could be documented by the fact that two deans of eight medical faculties in the country are neurologists: prof. Komárek at the 2nd Faculty of Medicine at Charles University in Prague and prof. Bareš at the Faculty of Medicine at Masaryk University in Brno.
There are around 1,500 neurologists in the Czech Republic, and about three quarters are currently members of the Czech Neurological Society (CNS). Given that the population of CR is around 10.5 million, this means that there is one neurologist per 7,500 people. The CNS was established in 1919. The CNS Executive Board has now 17 members including the current president (prof. Josef Bednařík) and 4 vice-presidents: prof. Karel Šonka (first vice-president), prof. Petr Marusič, prof. Milan Brázdil and dr. Ondřej Škoda. The CNS comprises nine working groups (sections): movement disorders, cognitive neurology, neuromuscular disorders, cerebrovascular disorders, headache, neuropharmacology, neuroimmunology, neurointensive care, occupational neurology and neurotoxicology. In addition, there are two independent societies – The Czech League Against Epilepsy (a chapter of the International League Against Epilepsy), and the Czech Society for Clinical Neurophysiology – in which neurologists are active and play the leading role.
The CNS, in cooperation with the Slovak Neurological Society, annually organizes The Czech and Slovak Neurological Meeting and biannually The Czech Neurological Academy. The Annual National Neurology Congresses have been held for decades as a most important educational and social event organized by the CNS. Despite splitting of Czechoslovakia in 1992, we continue in the tradition of joint congresses of the Czech and Slovak neurological societies. In 2018, we
organized the 32th Czech and Slovak national neurological conferences with more than 1000 attendees. Not only CNS but
also most working groups of CNS continue in the tradition of joint Czech and Slovak conferences. In 2019, Prague will host the 33rd Czech and Slovak Neurological Meeting. Prague also hosted the important international epileptological and neurological conferences –the International Epilepsy Conference in 1999, the 11th International Congress of EMG and Clinical Neurophysiology in 1999, and the European Congress on Epilepsy in 2016.
The CNS has its official journal – The Czech and Slovak Neurology and Neurosurgery (CSNN) – that is the official journal of other two scientific national societies: The Slovak Neurological Society, The Czech Neurosurgical Society, The Slovak Neurosurgical Society, and The Czech Society of Child Neurology. CSNN has a long tradition, as it has been published continuously since 1938. From 1997 until now, CSNN is excerpted in the Web of Science and the Journal Citation Reports databases and has the impact factor.
In 1989, Prague was the host of the Pan-European Congress for Neurology as the initiative of Prof. Daniel Bartko and Prof. Franz Gerstenbrand. About 1,000 neurologists met in the Czech capital which included lectures on special neurological topics major activities and the administrative planning of a new Federation of national neurological societies. The provisory name has been chosen as the “Pan-European Neurological Society.“ After the constitution of the European Federation of the Neurological Societies (EFNS), the CNS became a member and, in 1997, Prague hosted the third EFNS Regional Meeting with about 1,000 participants.
Among the Czech neurologists, prof. Pavel Kalvach was very active in educational and organizational activities of EFNS. He covered the post of the General Secretary (1998-2002) and then the Vice President (2002-2006). He organized a traditional spring meeting – the EFNS Spring school for Young Neurologists – in Stare Splavy. With its attendance of 100-130 colleagues each year, the total number of participating colleagues amounted to 2000. Altogether, 19 annual courses have been held with participation of over 160 experts in specific lectures and workshops. Another educational programme, organized by prof. Kalvach, was the “department to department programme“, allowing young neurologists to visit a department of excellence for six weeks in certain cities throughout Europe. More than 700 colleagues have taken part within 15 years. Almost 1.3 million euros have been spent by the EFNS for these individual educational visits. The satisfaction was overall very high.
A few Czech neurologists also became individual members of the European Neurological Society (ENS) and in 2013, Prague hosted the 22nd ENS Meeting with 3000 participants. After the constitution of the European Academy of Neurology (EAN), CNS members participate in many EAN activities. Among others, three of them are current co-chairs in three EAN scientific panels: prof. Růžička in Movement Disorders, prof. Hort in Dementia and Cognitive Deficits, and dr. Ehler in Neurotraumatology panels. Prof. Růžička is also a member of the EAN Programme Committee. In addition to EAN, the CNS is also a member of The Union of European Medical Specialists (UEMS) and World Federation of Neurology (WFN).
The article was prepared by prof. Josef Bednařík, prof. Karel Šonka, prof. Evžen Růžička, prof. Petr Marusič, prof. Milan Brázdil, dr. Eduard Ehler and Veronika Janůrková.