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Presidential Address
Opening Ceremony of the 8th World Congress of Biological Psychiatry,
Vienna, Austria, June 28, 2005.


Carlos R. Hojaij

 

 

Her Excellency Dr. Maria Ranch-Kallat, Austrian Federal Minister of Health

Dear colleague Nancy Andreasen, our special guest for the Opening Conference,

 

Colleagues President of National Societies of Biological Psychiatry,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

            The Opening Ceremony of the World Congress of Biological Psychiatry is a special night for a President of the World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry. From the time he takes the position as President, he has to wait four years to address a message to a worldwide audience. There is a significant advantage in that delay. You are not going to listen to promises of a fantastic job for the following four years, but will listen to the real development of the organization and, for being in that condition, you will be able to properly evaluate and judge the work already done.

            This special night for the President of the Federation is also a unique opportunity to transmit to the entire membership, and others honouring the congress with their attendance, some philosophical backgrounds implemented into the organisation, as well as the policy adopted during the last few years.

            As many of you are aware, the history of the Federation started some 30 years ago in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Edmundo Fisher organized the first international congress of biological psychiatry in 1974.  During the event, under his leadership, it was founded what would become the World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry.  To celebrate the 30th Anniversary and as a homage to Fisher, we held a special meeting last year in Buenos Aires.

            Along these thirty years, several group of colleagues offered their contribution for the development of the Federation.  Here I express, to all of them, represented by the corresponding presidents, the recognition and gratitude for the work they have done: Edmund Fisher, Juan Obiols, Carlo Perri, Charles Shagass, Tetsuo Fukuda, Jorge Olivier Cipriani and Hans-Jürgen Möller.

            The Federation is not anymore a simple organisation. For some years now, it became a very large and complex institution. Essentially composed by National Societies of Biological Psychiatry, its membership nearly doubled in the last eight years.

            There are reasons for such a fantastic growth:

 

-        the evident scientific progress in biological psychiatry benefiting patients, which attracts more interest to the societies dealing with this matter;

-        the administrative structure implemented in the Federation;

-        and a strong policy to stimulate foundation of national societies of biological psychiatry, offering to doctors an adequate and free space in the world psychiatry arena.

 

            The Federation is currently composed by sixty five National Societies present in all continents, comprising about six thousand five hundred individual members.

            In the period 2001-2005 the Federation have been also developed through numerous committees and task forces.  All members of these two bodies will receive the medal commemorative of the 30th Anniversary as acknowledgment of their contribution.

            The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry was founded in Sao Paulo, just five years ago, and have been freely distributed to our more than six thousands psychiatrists all over the world. Thanks to the outstanding dedication and competence of the Chief Editor and its team, as well the contribution of so many authors, the journal quickly reached a distinguished position.  Nowadays, the Federation's Journal is a constant reference in the psychiatric literature.

 

            Equally, the bulletin BioPsych News and the Federation's web site are the two other excellent vehicles of communication serving the National Societies and all our members. 

            With my colleagues of the Executive Committee, Hans-Jürgen Möller, José Luis Ayuso-Gutierrez, Shigenobu Kanba and Florence Thibaut, we lived four years of an almost daily communication, several meetings, hundreds and hundreds of letters, hours and hours of a very difficult work, sometimes very conflictive. We had always a challenge ahead of us. I want to thank them for whatever the time, ideas and efforts they were able to offer, contributing to what the Federation is today.

            The Federations Constitution says that Past President is entitled to be Honorary President. I am glad, very happy to once more obey the Constitution. I had the chance to work with a brilliant person and a good friend. Hans-Jürgen, deserves the title, for under his leadership the Federation started to move to a higher status.

            There have been changes in the administration in the last 12 months.  Changes for better, much better.  We signed a contract with MCI – a recognised international company – to control all aspects related to the secretariat.  A dedicated and competent team made of the Federation an example among similar medical organisations. Special acknowledgments to Michel Ballieu, the Federation's CEO and Geraldine Damar, Secretary.

            There was an English poet (John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, in Meditation, 1624), who left us such a preciosity:

 

No man is an island entire of it self;

Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by sea,

Europe is less,

As well as if a promontory were,

As well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were;

Any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind;

And therefore,

Never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

This is the spirit moving the Federation. This is the idea that makes the Federation a well-recognised and strong worldwide organisation. We are in one space only; we all are committed to the good and to the bad, to the right and to the wrong, to the success and to the defeat. Until certain point, we all are responsible for each other. Under that philosophy the Federation doors are open. The Federation arena is equally participated by all national societies.

            If no man is an island, we all have a social or political (non-partisan) responsibility.  As doctors, as people privileged by a better developed consciousness, we are to have a constant vigilance in defence of health and freedom.

            The World has been shaken and the humanity as a whole has been shocked by tragedies in many parts of Earth, sometimes naturally caused, as like the recent tsunami devastating large populations in Asia. Other times, provoked by the most irrational, cruel and ambitious forces.

            But there are also other kinds of threats, which in a silent and constant movement makes use of populations for clear financial benefit. The world situation reached a point where a high feeling of indignation has to be continuously expressed.

            Refusing any political party and state preference, I have asked to bring to the Federation's website a call for consciousness symbolized by the flight of a dove. My intention is to keep the message alive – maybe too idealistically – until we set down again and re-start looking for living with justice and in peace.

            I hope that the President who succeeds me in the Federation will maintain this vivid message.

            Let’s move now to the Vienna Congress. I have been involved in the organization of many, too many congresses.  Tonight I am pleased to testify the excellence of services rendered by Mondial, all the way through the process of making of the 8th World Congress of Biological Psychiatry the magnificent event we all are starting to experiment. Congratulations and a sincere thanks to Annette Jirasek and Stephan Walter, here representing the competent team, which are making this meeting efficient and enjoyable.

            I am very thankful to my colleagues from the core group of the International Scientific Program Committee.  Their broad and deep psychiatric knowledge, and an amazing net of contacts, made possible a high profile scientific program.  We are working in the program for more than two years, and in the last six months the contacts via email have been almost everyday, a full time job.  They compose a fantastic group: Jose Luis Ayuso-Gutierrez, Helmut Beckmann, Wagner Gattaz, Siegfried Kasper, Hans-Jurgen Moller, Bernd Saletu, chaired by Jean-Pierre Olie.

            Years ago, Bernd Saletu came to the Federation presenting a bid for a World Congress in Vienna. He is the initial responsible for what is happening now. His special good sense of humour always imprinted a pleasant atmosphere to the long hours in preparation for the congress.  Bernd resumes in himself the elegance and scientific tradition of Austria, which we gratefully experiment in this Congress.

            On behalf of the International and Local Organising Committees I express my thanks to all companies that joined us in making of the 8th Congress of Biological Psychiatry a great success.

            Now, I want to transmit what for me would be my final message as President. I have been in contact with many different societies in different parts of the world. This unique experience gives me the chance to deliver a critical, but positive message. It is a realistic and an independent message. It is a message composed by thoughts directly addressed to our members, a message that I consider important for the Federation, in order to keep its integrity and role in the psychiatric world.

            As many other partial knowledge, the psychiatric about the brain has been, in the last few decades, very much benefited by results originated in Cosmology.  Physics became an important body of knowledge for a progressive understanding of the formation, composition, organisation and evolution of Cosmos. Concepts and instruments have been transferred to Medicine, originating several hypothesis for brain functioning and tools for the natural investigation of the brain.

            Today, anyone can enthusiastically understand what Kant has said: “there are two magnificent things in this world: above my head, the stars; and inside, my mind.”

            In that sense, Neuroscience, a modern euphemism for Neurobiology, should be understood as one more tool for the knowledge serving Biological Psychiatry. It is important to emphasise that Biological Psychiatry is Clinical Psychiatry, in the sense that is beside the patient, and should be devoted to the patient.

            Instead of long term preparation’s books, papers have dominated the psychiatric literature of the recent years.  Most of the times, they are just an accumulation of previous papers under the pompous name of meta-analysis. I understand this is causing to our knowledge much more damage than progress, promoting confusion and uncertainties, which are then propitiating bureaucratic guidelines of questionable value.

            The sophisticated psychiatry of some privileged countries should not suffocate and eliminate the simple and daily clinical practice so necessary everywhere. Consequently, there is a need to promote courses respecting the cultural and economic peculiarities of different countries. What is good for one, not necessary is good for others.

            If in the two last decades psychopharmacotherapy started to touch Schizophrenia, on the other hand there is a kind of stagnation concerning the antidepressants. We should expect progress beyond the variation of old recipes.

            The alarming incidence of previous unnoticed side effects of some drugs should move us to a permanent pharmacovigilance through a drug’s life, through a patient’s life. Considering the so many clinical trials involving populations of different parts of the world, it would make sense to have an International Panel to constantly evaluate these trials.

            If the children are really the future, drugs to children – sometimes with unpredictable outcome – should be used when strictly necessary and under a high strict control.  Any life is too precious.

            For different reasons it is necessary to not forget the so-called old drugs, many of them still useful and necessary everywhere, mainly in countries with restricted economic resources. In this regard, I would like to bring to your attention the "3 A’s” created by Sri Suyawati, an Indonesian colleague, for the occasion of the last World Congress of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics: access; affordability; appropriate use of drugs.

            Biology is living a new era. It is an era creating one world comprising many languages and different cultures to be preserved, but aiming one communication.

            Since genetics and neurobiological studies are proving the significant environmental influence in genes and brain development, we can again imply how different can be the expressions of a same disease in different cultures, and how one point of the world may affect all other parts.

            Modern biology highlights the importance of diversity. Diversity is to be considered in terms of living beings, but also in terms of race, culture; diversity in terms of people, and in terms of opinion. In so diversified and complex world, we can only live and construct a health and peaceful society if moved by respect to each other.  As doctors we know how important is to have Ethic illuminating our road.

            I finish my speech wishing that symbol inserted in the Federation’s website, the dove, making with its wings a fresh and delicate wind, will maintain permanently alive our energy to fight the misuse of scientific knowledge, which contributes to exploitation, misery, and injustice; and to maintain permanently alive our scientific curiosity and productivity, and the sense of responsibility towards the patients.

            My colleagues and guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming to Vienna. Enjoy the Beauty of Vienna, the warmth of her people and the excellence of the Congress.

            I solemnly declare open the 8th World Congress of Biological Psychiatry.

 September 7, 2017