Two inventions that saved millions of human lives, the polio vaccine and the louse-borne typhus vaccine, won the contest “100 years of medical innovations in Poland” contest held by the “Rzeczpospolita” newspaper. Prof. Henryk Skarżyński took second place. He was nominated for the first in the world cochlear implantation in partial deafness performed in an adult and then a child. An official Gala was held at the Campus of the Silesian University of Technology during the European Health Tech lnnovations Center opening.
“100 years of medical innovations in Poland” is a project of “Rzeczpospolita” daily to honor the most important innovations in medicine that happened in Poland over the last hundred years. The contest aimed to distinguish the watershed moments and groundbreaking projects that were innovative and contributed to the development of Polish medicine.
Such a breakthrough in world medicine is the Partial Deafness Treatment Programme initiated by Prof. Henryk Skarżyński, the first to perform cochlear implantation in a patient with partial deafness. For a long time, the prevailing view in the medical community was that implanting an electrode must lead to irreversible damage of a cochlea. For that reason, treating people with partial deafness was believed to be impossible, as implantation should damage the part of the cochlea responsible for receiving low-piched tones and destroy the patient’s residual hearing. Prof. Henryk Skarżyński’s surgical technique for reaching the inner ear through the round window proved to be an effective method for preserving hearing in the range of low frequencies. There was also concern about integrating the information received through hearing centers of the central nervous system through simultaneous electrical and acoustic stimulation of the hearing receptor. The prevailing view was that connecting these two types of the hearing was impossible. However, thanks to the application by the Institute’s clinical engineers of a particular procedure of speech processor setup, such integration was successful. The pioneer operation performed by prof. Skarżyński was transmitted live through the Internet. It was watched by thousands of specialists from all over the world. The successful surgery became the beginning of a wide-scale, international Programme of Partial Deafness Treatment (PDT).
– Congratulations to the authors of this great initiative – I can only guess how difficult it was to execute it given a large number of outstanding personalities in medicine in this century –prof. Henryk Skarżyński said at the Gala. – I am all the more honored to be here with you. My medical specialty has always required knowledge, skills, support, and courage. I have been developing all these qualities to this day, and that is why for over 18 years, we have been the world leader in terms of the number of operations conducted to improve hearing – added the professor.
The third place was awarded to prof. Tomasz Cieszyński for inventing the first probe for heart structure examination, the fourth – to prof. Zbigniew Religa for the first successful heart transplantation in Poland, and the fifth – to prof. Maciej Wojtkowski for inventing optical tomography.