Lives of the fellows

Andrzej Thaddeus Szczeklik

b.29 July 1938 d.3 February 2012
MD(1961) PhD(1966) FRCP(1998) FACP(2007)

Andrzej Thaddeus Szczeklik, usually known as ‘Andrew’ outside Poland, was professor and chairman of the department of medicine at Jagiellonian University, Crakow, Poland. An international authority on aspirin-induced asthma, he was also renowned for his research on the mechanisms of blood clotting in cardiovascular diseases. Born in Cracow, he was the son of Edward Szczeklik, an eminent professor of internal medicine, and his wife, Marianna née Gruszczynska. Educated at the High School in Cracow, he initially attended the college of music before studying medicine at the Copernicus Academy of Medicine (CAM) in Cracow and the University Hospital.

After qualifying in 1961, he spent a year as an intern at the Monmouth Medical Centre in New Jersey, USA. Later he remarked that while he was there he found the upbeat spirit of the Kennedy era very inspiring. On his return to Poland in 1962, he began work at the Academy of Medicine in Wroclaw where he stayed for seven years. He obtained his PhD in 1966 with a thesis on serum aminopeptidase activity on diseases of the liver and biliary tract. In January 1972 on returning to Cracow, he was appointed head of the department of allergy at the CAM, becoming associate professor in 1979 and full professor in 1989. These were highly fertile and productive years. In the UK he was a visiting professor at the University of Sheffield in 1985, at King’s College School of Medicine in London from 1986 to 1989 and in Switzerland he was a visiting professor at the Hochgebirgsklinik Davos-Wolfgang from 1987 to 1996. In 1990 he was appointed rector of the CAM and also became professor of medicine at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow and, from 1993 to 1996, was their vice rector.

He published a ground-breaking paper in 1975 ‘Relationship of inhibition of prostaglandin biosynthesis by analgesics to asthma attacks in aspirin sensitive patients’ (BMJ, 1975, 1, 67-9). In this paper, which was his most cited, he described the adverse effects on 11 patients, previously known to suffer aspirin intolerance, of different analgesic drugs. Subsequently the work was validated and widely accepted. He continued this research with work on intolerance of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID)s with a colleague , Ryszard Gryglewski who had trained in London with the Noble prize winner, Sir John Vane [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web], and Szczerlik later worked with Vane at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. In 1976 he injected himself and the members of his team with the newly discovered substance, prostacyclin, thus becoming the first to be able to describe its effect on the human body. He later used this research to explore the value of using prostacyclins to treat angina and pulmonary hypertension.

The author of over 600 scientific papers, he also published several monographs and textbooks. With Grygelwski and Vane, he wrote Eicosanoids, aspirin and asthma (New York, Dekker, 1998) and he also produced two books in which he explored the wider philosophical aspects of medicine, Catharsis: on the art of medicine (Chicago, University Press, 2005) and Kore: on sickness, the sick, and the search for the soul of medicine (Berkeley, California, Counterpoint, 2012).

The recipient of numerous honours and awards, both in Poland and elsewhere, he was also a member of many international scientific societies such as the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (who awarded him a gold medal in 2001), the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the European Respiratory Society and the International Society of Thrombosis Haemostasis. In Poland, from 2001, he was chair of the committee for specialist and continued education of the Society of Internal Medicine. From 1995 to 2005 he was the national consultant in internal diseases, and from 2007, chair of the national scientific board of the Polish edition of the journal Archives of internal medicine.

Outside medicine he enjoyed mountaineering and, his first love, music. He managed to obtain a piano for his department and used to give informal concerts to entertain his patients. Unpopular with the Communist regime, he was, at one time, demoted, but continued to proclaim his democratic principles.

In 1967 he married Maria (‘Marysa’) née Rejman and they had two sons and a daughter. She survived him when he died in his department after a short illness.

RCP editor

[Medycyna Praktyczna; Europ resp J; Wikipedia - all accessed 14 November 2015; Lancet 2012 379 1698]

(Volume XII, page web)

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