Tribute to Prof. Ugo Carcassi (1921–2016)

Hon. President EFIM On behalf of the European Federation of Internal Medicine (EFIM)
Published:August 14, 2016DOI:
      It was with great sadness that the Federation heard that Prof. Ugo Carcassi died in Cagliari on May 16th 2016 at the age of 94. His distinguished academic and scientific career in Internal Medicine spanned many generations of students and residents for whom he was a father figure and inspiration. His important scientific work was devoted to the study of congenital haemolytic anaemias, particularly in Sardinia.
      The influence of Professor Carcassi for the Federation cannot be underestimated. His tireless work was responsible for the foundation of the European Federation of Internal Medicine (EFIM) in 1996 from the former Association European of Internal Medicine (AEMI), an organisation that, at that time, was struggling to survive. In addition, he was the founder and first Editor-in-Chief (from 1989 to 1998) of the European Journal of Internal Medicine, the official scientific journal of EFIM and one of the flagships of the Federation.
      As early as 1985 Ugo Carcassi expressed his concerns about the falling membership and outdated structure of AEMI, but matters came to a head at the conference in Brussels in 1989, when less than a hundred delegates attended. Ugo, supported strongly by the Italian Society of Internal Medicine, was elected President of AEMI. His strategy was clear: he had seen the threats to Internal Medicine from specialization in his own country, and he realised that this was a problem throughout Europe. To counter this trend, it was vital to tackle this problem not just in individual countries but in Europe as a whole.
      His first step was to attract a number of new members to the Committee whom he felt could help to revitalize AEMIE, and in choosing these members he already showed his leadership qualities. He knew that they would each bring an important contribution to the organization. These included Prof Philippe Jaeger (CH), Dr Barros Veloso (PT), and Prof Jaime Merino (ES), all Presidents of their National Societies of Internal Medicine, and ourselves: Dr Jan Willem Elte, President of Young AEMIE; and Dr Chris Davidson as Secretary.
      This team soon got to work under Ugo Carcassi's leadership. We established the European Journal of Internal Medicine (EJIM), through Ugo's contact with the publisher Pozzi, as a voice for the organization, and held successful Congresses in Spain and Portugal. But Ugo quickly realized that a growing individual membership was insufficient, and that in order to have an effective voice in Europe we needed to engage the National Societies of Internal Medicine directly.
      Through his personal contacts, Ugo set up a Forum of Presidents of National Societies in Portugal in 1993 and as a result of the discussions at that meeting, it was decided to transform this Association of Internal Medicine into a Federation of National Societies—the European Federation of Internal Medicine. The foundation of EFIM was in Paris in 1996, the inauguration of EFIM occurred in Maastricht in 1997.
      It is typical of Ugo Carcassi's qualities that he did not seek to become President of the Federation himself, in spite of entreaties to do so. It was in fact the French President—Yves Le Tallec—who became the first President of EFIM. The Federation, however, bestowed on Ugo Carcassi the title of Honorary President and he has maintained close links with the Federation ever since. Many of his aspirations for the Federation have been realised and he has been able to see the organization flourish as a result of the sound foundations he built in those early years.
      The Federation now comprises 34 member countries representing over 40,000 internists in Europe; has a flourishing Journal and successful annual congresses. Through the inspiration of one of the Founder members—Jaime Merino—we have established a highly successful European Summer School of Internal Medicine that has been held annually since 1998. The School has helped us to establish close links with many Young Internists across Europe.
      In all these successes we see the hand of Professor Ugo Carcassi, and we hope that his family looks on these achievements with some feeling of pride. It is with great regret that we will not have the opportunity to meet and discuss these developments with Ugo anymore. The last time he gave a lecture was in 2015, during the summer school in Sardinia, when he was well into his nineties, which the residents really appreciated. It is perhaps fitting that this was the last official contact with EFIM, as he had always realized that it is with young internists that the future of Internal Medicine lies.
      June 2016