History of the FESSH
The idea of a linking organization of all hand surgery societies in Europe stems from meetings of colleagues from different European nations on the basis of personal friend-ships, such as the Franco/German symposium for hand surgery in 1964 organized by Verdan under the patronage of the Swiss National Exhibition.
The International Federation of the Societies for Surgery of the Hand (IFSSH), created in 1966, grew fast from only 8 national societies in the beginning to 45 in 2000 and was an inspiration for their 19 European to form an own Federation of the European Societies of the Hand (FESSH).
This dream became reality when Professor Caroli presented a draft proposal for a European Federation constitution in 1989 and subsequently, 15 representatives of nations met in Paris on the 11 February 1990 to advance the development of this linking organization. Thirteen Hand Societies had agreed the draft constitution with Norway and Sweden as observers. Since 1993, a total of 12 annual meetings with instructional courses have been organized, the next meeting in 2008 will take place in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The federation is still growing and today unifies the hand surgical societies of 25 European member countries including as the newest FESSH Members the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Russia: (in alphabetical order) Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Repuplic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Turkey and United Kingdom. The principle objective purposes is still the promotion and harmonization of training throughout Europe, to define and provide qualifications and encourage exchange opportunities for younger hand surgeons as a part of their training. The Federation is led by Secretary General rather then a President, supported by a Treasurer and 10 council members.
Role of the Historian within the FESSH
The main objective of the historian’ s work within the FESSH is to provide an overview of the research and advances made by those from various European countries who took part in the development of what has become the surgical specialty devoted to the human hand.
An important source in this regard is of course the medical literature. In our European Journal of Hand Surgery, original articles are republished regularly to describe in detail the respective contributions from the different countries and show the historical background of the respective innovation with a portrait of its author such as recently Paget (first description of carpal tunnel syndrome), Lexer (first flexor tendon transplantation) or Esmarch (tourniquet for bloodless operative field), This collection of articles shall be soon expanded by personal recollections of famous masters of hand on their teachers and by further contributions on the hand surgery development from Spain, Italy, Poland, Russia and Turkey.
It is planned to launch a historical book library with exchange of old books during meetings (Historical Book Corner) and digital scans and to start a historical bibliography started, including journals, biographies, procedures, techniques, associations, meetings and rare books.
Regarding the famous quotation “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” by George Santayana, we could summarize the objective of our exploring the historical development of hand surgery to be aware of the past of our speciality and thus know the present and be prepared for the future. In addition, we can safe time and paper, have fun and make new friends.