The First Department of Pediatrics of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens is the first Pediatric Clinic created in our country. In its long course, it faced several problems, which concerned its building and material infrastructure, the fate of its Head Professors-Directors according to the current political events of our country and mainly the provision of funds for its operation, which was the main cause of its repeated abolitions and reconstitutions. Despite all the problems, the contribution both to the care of the sick child and to the general development of Greek Pediatrics was and still is very important and invaluable.
Searching the scientific literature for the chronology of the emergence of Pediatrics as a medical specialty, we reach the middle of the nineteenth century AD. But if we consider the nature of events, we must conclude that Pediatrics dates, respectively with General Medicine, from the time when people began to get sick and, reacting, tried to cope with diseases.
“The mother as the first protector of pain was also her first priestess of primitive Pediatrics and perhaps of Medicine at all … and maternal breasts, which were disturbed by the fear, warmed the first seeds, from which our medical branch sprouted and grew”. K. Choremis
As it is known, after the liberation of the country from the Turkish yoke, there was no hospital for children. The only “organized” care for the child was the open care offered by the Municipality of Athens at the Exhibitions of the city of Athens, from 1836 with the establishment of the Municipal Infant Orphanage of Athens (Nursery).
The University of Athens, recognizing this lack but also the need for patient-student contact for educational purposes, offered medical insight to children through its “Appendices” such as the Obstetrics (1837), the Ophthalmology Clinic (1855), the other University Clinics, and mainly the Pediatric Department of the Astyclinic (1857) of which Antonios Vitsaris was in charge.
Finally, in 1879, with the help of the Brother of the Nursery and the assistance of various benefactors, the “Clinic of Children’s Diseases” was founded and established in it, with Anastasios Zinnis being as the first Professor-Director.
Thus, “Pediatrics” was detached from Internal Medicine on 29-9-1879 and began to develop as a separate Branch.
In terms of building, initially, from its foundation (1879) and until 1915 the Clinic was housed in the building of the Municipal Nursery of Athens, in the selected Nursery, in Eleftherias Square (Koumoundourou) and at the same time in the adjacent and specially designed building (1891-1915), the first Children’s Hospital and in fact a University Hospital, the current Kindergarten of the Municipality of Athens which was also built at the expense of benefactors.
The Nursing Home was the “home” where expectations, dreams, hopes for a better future of the hopes of our Nation, ie the children, but also countless hours of painstaking effort and voluntary contribution were housed. Inside this building, the cradle of Greek Pediatrics, Pediatrics was nurtured and developed in our country.
Almost all the work on pediatric diseases sprang up from the Nursery and the Therapeutic Center, the progress of which was realized at the beginning of the 20th century, thus contributing to the formation of Pediatrics at an international level. During this effort, the branches (subspecialties) of Pediatrics were also developed.
Inside the Nursery, from 1879 to 1915, in the specially designed first “Amphitheater” of the Pediatric Clinic of the National University, but also in the Amphitheater of Medicine at the Central University, our students listened to the lessons of Pediatrics from those wise Academics, and their tutoring exercises began in that place, while from 1927 until 1991 the teaching took place in the Amphitheater of the University in the precinct of the Children’s Hospital “Aghia Sofia” and since then, until today, at the Amphitheater of the “Horemeion Research Laboratories”.
The postgraduate education of doctors in Pediatrics began in the Nursing Home and in it the first Pediatricians in our country acquired their “specialty”.
“For them, the city of Athens and the University owe grace to the Brotherhood of this Foundation”. (Michael HatziMichael, Professor of the Medical School, 1884).
However, the indifference of the then State and the sluggish finances of both the University and the Municipality of Athens contributed to the abolition of the Clinic three times (1st: 30 April 1903, 2nd: 15th of September 1911, 3rd: 15-12-1915) and so many more to be reconstituted (1st: 5-5-1907, 2nd: 10-2-1914, 3rd: 14-9-1916).
From September 1916 until August 1926, the Clinic was housed in the Rainek house, at 22 Academias Street, where all the members of the Clinic (from the Professor to the cleaner) are academics.
This period of the Clinic (Professor Ch. Malandrinos) is on the one hand turbulent, on the other hand very important for the development of the Pediatric Clinic.
After tireless efforts, Professor Ch. Malandrinos managed to lead the Clinic (26-8-1926) to its current residence, at the “Aghia Sofia” Children ‘s Hospital, initially (it had 79 beds) in the various kiosks (A. Syggrou, Infectious or Makka, Korgialenio, Measles, Rubella, (110 beds, Professor G. N. Makka), Simopouleion, “Neon Pathologicon”, Tuberculous Meningitis or Choremeion) – a total of 250 beds since 1953 (Professor K. B. Choremis) until 1964, and since then on the 5th and 6th floor of the main building, where it remains until today with approximately the same number of beds.
But even after the turbulent installation of the Clinic in the “Aghia Sophia” Children’s Hospital: a) it was in danger of disintegration (1938 by PIKPA), but the arguments of Professor G. N. Makkas prevent the disintegration, b) to lose the material during the relocation to the buildings of the children’s countryside of PIKPA in Penteli and of the Rizareios Theological School during the war and c) finally in danger of being expelled from the Hospital, a fact which was managed to avoid thanks to the long struggle of the General of K. V. Choremis, but also of all the executives of the Clinic.
In this long course, due to its operational needs, the Clinic developed various pioneering Laboratories and Departments, given that most of them were or are even today the only ones in Greece. Millions of children have been examined and given the help they need.
The development of its specialized Laboratories and Outpatient Clinics was important at the beginning of the 50’s of the 20th century. A fundamental milestone of the Clinic was the development of the “Choremeion Research Laboratories” in 1963, “even a rudimentary temple of research”, which gradually became a really large temple of research with global recognition.
Brilliant names of Pediatrics, the professors of the Clinic: A. Vitsaris, A. Zinnis, C. Malandrinos, G. Makkas, K. Choremis, had the “luck” for political reasons to be fired and re-appointed, while the latter even to be imprisoned by Axis troops during the German Occupation.
During the period of the professorship of Academic N. S. Matsaniotis, the Clinic went through difficult years that were mainly connected with the general political and social conditions and differences. And yet, during this period, the Clinical Units of the Clinic increased from 2 to 9, its Special Laboratories from 5 to 14, while 16 specialized clinics were created.
In 1990 the new Choremeion Research Laboratory was opened, in 1992 the University Research Institute was founded and in 1999, (period of the first female Professor-Director Catherine Metaxotou), it was decided to establish the Laboratory of Medical Genetics of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Medical School at “Aghia Sophia” Children’s Hospital, the creation of which had been proposed by Professor Ch. Kattamis and approved by the Medical School. The whole tradition of the Clinic was followed by the Professor G. Chrousos and the current Director Professor Chr. Kanaka-Gantenbein.
For the staff of this Clinic, who has enlightened our Science, the instruction of the Apostle Paul is absolutely valid:
“… I fight for a good reason…”.
The triple purpose of the First Department of Pediatrics is:
- The education of students and doctors in Pediatrics, as well as nurses and midwives and other health scientists, has been continuously fulfilled for about 150 years, nursing and caring for hundreds of thousands of children, educating thousands of students, doctors and other health scientists, who excelled in Greece and beyond, while delivering thousands of works in the international literature as a result of the huge research work of the Clinic which stood by the Hopes of our Nation whenever there was a need (Balkan and World Wars, Asia Minor catastrophe , German occupation, various epidemics, various social problems, etc.).
The Directors-Professors of the First Department of Pediatrics are:
- a) Antonios Vitsaris (Lecturer 1855-62, Professor 1862-1882)
- b) Anastasios Zinnis (1979-1899)
- c) Nikolaos Pezopoulos (1899-1906, Professor of Pathological Anatomy)
- d) Christos Malandrinos (1906-1910)
- e) Nikolaos Dellaportas (1910-1912, Professor of Ophthalmology)
- f) Christos Malandrinos (1912-1928)
- g) Anastasios Aravantinos (1928-1929, Professor of Special Nosology)
- h) George N. Makkas (1929-1935)
- i) Konstantinos Choremis (1935-1936)
- j) George N. Makkas (1936-1946)
- k) Konstantinos Choremis (1946-1966)
- l) Evangelos Danopoulos (1966-1968)
- m) Nikolaos Matsaniotis (1968-1993)
- n) Christos Kattamis (1993-1998)
- o) Catherine Metaxotou (1998-2000)
- p) George Chrousos (2000-2018)
- q) Christina Kanaka Gantenbein (2018 – today)