The last day of August 1995 was the day of the 65th birthday celebration of Prof. MUDr. Josef Koutecky, DrSc., the Dean of the Second Faculty of Medicine of Charles University in Prague and the Head Physician of the Clinic of Pediatric Oncology at the Faculty Hospital in Prague - Motol. At this age, most of his contemporaries are leading a quiet life as pensioners. However this is not the case with Prof. Koutecky. The way we know him, he is in full swing, even when "resting" during holidays in the silent and beautiful surroundings of his summer house at Mezihori.
He was born 31 August 1930 in Prague, and the ancient beauty of the city became one of his great loves, the other being arts, though both of them, however, were dominated by medicine. Prague provided him with his education: academic grammar school, completed in 1949, then followed by the Medical Faculty of Charles University and since 1953 the newly established Faculty of Pediatrics, from which he graduated cuma sum laude in February 1955. He started his practice at a pediatric ward of the hospital at Novy Bydzov and continued in the sanatorium for children affected by polio in Janske Lazne (1955-1957). In May 1957 he returned to Prague to the Clinic of Pediatric Surgery of the Faculty of Pediatrics, headed then by Professor Kafka. His postgraduate diploma was in pediatrics (1957), then surgery and pediatric surgery (1962). He did not finish there, however. The surgical treatment of tumor illnesses in children did not have good results at the time and the mortality rate was high. For a young pediatric surgeon this was a challenge, which he accepted - completely alone. With fresh experience in the complex tumor treatment which had begun to assert itself in the world, he established a field that was new in this country - pediatric oncology (1964). In 1971 he was appointed registrar for pediatric oncology and built from scratch a small unit in 1974 and an independent ward at the Motol Faculty Hospital (of which he was the Head Physician) in 1978. His extensive publishing activity is demonstrated by 192 articles published both home and abroad, including 6 monographs and a further 548 lectures. Most of them deal with the topic of pediatric oncology, which he has developed with success beyond national borders. This is testified by his membership in five foreign scientific societies (e.g.the International Society of Pediatric Oncology, American Society of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, New York Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science). Naturally he is active also in domestic societies (e.g. the Czech Oncologic Society, of which he is the Chairman, and the Czechoslovak Pediatric Society). He is a founding member of the Learned Society of the Czech Republic. It is no surprise that he has obtained his fourth diploma in clinical oncology.
In spite of the difficult conditions under the communist regime (Koutecky has always been a non-party man), his clinical experience and extensive knowledge led to him first being appointed an assistant professor (1981). After successfully defending his thesis Neuroblastoma sympathicum he became a senior lecturer (1984) and, finally he was appointed the first Czech professor of oncology (1 February 1987). He is a beloved teacher, his lectures being an interesting and deeply enlightened way of communicating his rich experiences. Professor Koutecky has the gift of speaking about his field as well as writing about it. His monograph Tumors in Children (1978) was the first oncologic monograph in this country, and Clinical Oncology, which he edited, became the official textbook for medical faculties and a handbook for novice physicians-oncologists.
It is no wonder that after 1989 Professor Koutecky was elected by a majority of Academic Senate votes the Dean of the Faculty of Pediatrics, which became the CU Second Medical Faculty under his leadership. His popularity was demonstrated by being reelected twice. Among numerous awards for his pedagogical, academic and organization activities are the silver and gold medals of the Second Faculty of Medicine and the gold commemorative medal of Charles University, honorary membership of the Czech Oncologic Society and the Czech Medical Society of J. E. Purkyne. The TV documentary series GEN justifiably ranked him among the 100 greatest Czechs of the present day.
Those celebrating their birthday should be congratulated and given presents. In the case of Prof. Koutecky it is the contrary. He himself gives us more than we can ever return, in the results of his work, in cured children, in the renewed faculty, in his humane viewpoints. Let us wish him, for his sake and ours, that he will make his great dreams come true in the best of health.