Lives of the fellows

Bozidar Vrhovac

b.8 June 1936 d.4 December 2009
MB Zagreb(1961) FRCP(2004)

Bozidar Vrhovac ('Darko') was professor of medicine at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. He was renowned for his dedication to clinical pharmacology, patient safety and international collaboration.

Born in Zagreb, he was the son of Vuk and Beata Vrhovac. His father was a professor at the medical school and regarded as the founder of endocrinology in Croatia; he was to greatly influence his son in his chosen career. After attending a classical grammar school, he studied medicine at Zagreb medical school and clinical hospital. While he was a student he worked as an assistant in the department of physiology and had the opportunity to make exchange visits to hospitals in Munich and Zurich.

He graduated in 1961, did his internship for two years and then did National Service for a year as a medical officer in the Army.

In the emergency department of Zagreb Hospital, where he worked from 1963 to 1965, he became interested by his colleagues’ prescribing habits and wondered why they chose many different drugs for the same diseases. In 1965 he began his residency training in internal medicine at the Zagreb University Hospital’s department of medicine. He finished six years later and was appointed assistant professor in clinical pathology. It was the first professorship in that subject in Yugoslavia at the time. Simultaneously he became head of the intensive care unit and, from this time onwards, he began his campaign to promote a rational drug therapy scheme at the hospital.

In 1972 he spent a year as a fellow in the department of clinical pharmacology at University College Hospital Medical School in London, having been awarded a scholarship by the National Ministry for Sciences. While there he was mentored by Desmond Laurence, the author of the standard textbook, Clinical pharmacology of which Vrhovac was later to organise a Croatian edition with his own additional notes.

On his return he organised, and was appointed head of, the first department of clinical pharmacology in the country. He also participated in the founding of the section for pharmacotherapy of the Croatian Medical Association; this was later renamed the Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics and he became its first president. In 1976 he became associate professor and, four years later, full professor at the Zagreb Medical School. Representing his country on several different bodies within the World Health Organization (WHO), he was especially proud of being included in WHO symposia on drug evaluation and control. He had been head of the WHO National Adverse Drug Reaction Monitoring Centre since 1974.

A prolific author, he published over 700 scientific papers and wrote or edited 15 textbooks either on his own or in collaboration with others. His Textbook of internal medicine (Zagreb, Naklad Ljevak) was published in four editions, the latest in 2008. From 1981 to 2007 he was the chief editor of the national journal Pharmaca and he also organised the translation of several standard texts into Croatian stressing the need for local rational prescribing policies in the texts. He was on the editorial boards of many European pharmacological journals and was an active participant in many international conferences.

A warm and sociable man, he had suffered from diabetes for over 50 years and gave this as a reason for his constant hard work. He loved dancing and also playing tennis – indeed he had enjoyed a game on the day of his death.

In 1963 he married Yvonne, who became a professor of philosophy at the University of Zagreb. Their only son Radovan followed him into medicine and was also a professor at the School of Medicine in Zagreb. When he died suddenly, at home, he was survived by his wife and son, daughter-in- law, Jasmina, and grandchildren, Pava and Ivan.

RCP editor

[Basic clin pharm toxic - accessed 15 May 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

<< Back to List