Medicine at the Catholic University. Anelli: giving meaning and remedy to the disease

This morning the Pope celebrates a mass at the Gemelli Hospital in Rome on the occasion of the anniversary of the inauguration of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery. For the rector Franco Anelli “a way to gather around the values ​​of the University in times of pandemic and to reaffirm the importance of the relationship between doctor and patient”

Michele Raviart – Vatican City

Respect for the patient as a person without giving up research and technology. This is the approach that has always guided the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore), founded in 1961 by the intuition of Father Agostino Gemelli. Sixty years that will be remembered this morning by Pope Francis, at the Mass that he will preside over at the Gemelli Polyclinic. The rector of the University, Professor Franco Anelli, who will receive the Pontiff, explains to Vatican News the expectations for this especially significant event, almost two years after the start of the pandemic.

Rector Anelli, what is the expectation at the Catholic University for the visit of Pope Francis?

We are preparing with great anticipation. The Holy Father will come to celebrate Mass and it is an important moment, not only because of the celebration, but because it gives all of us the opportunity to stop for a moment and gather around the words of Pope Francis. Hoping that time helps us, we have enabled the square in front of the biological institutes for the celebration of mass, so that a large number of people will be able to attend, we imagine that about two thousand. It will be a way of recognizing each other, of meeting on an important occasion, and not just to commemorate a very significant day, that of 60 years ago in the presence of Saint John XXIII. It will be a very important meeting occasion, especially after the period we have lived through. I think it is the biggest choral event in recent years, which we can safely celebrate because we have observed all the precautions and because people have taken measures to protect themselves from the pandemic and want to get back together. It is a way of rallying around our values.

What kind of relationship has the School of Medicine had with the Popes?

If you look at the speeches delivered at the inauguration – there was a reigning Pope and another who would ascend to the throne shortly after, because then Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini was also present – it has been a relationship of constant attention and presence. Already on the occasion of that celebration, everyone grasped and was immediately aware of the ideal meaning of the creation of a Faculty of Medicine at the Catholic University. It meant witnessing an approach to medical practice, scientific research in the field of medicine, education and practice that were inspired and shaped by the values ​​that characterize us. There is a phrase by Montini in which he says that the patient in our hospital goes in search of “meaning and remedy” for his illness. Now, the remedy is sought in all hospitals, to seek a meaning for the disease, which is the great question that all people have when they fall ill, well this is perhaps a little more characteristic of a Catholic hospital.

What was the relationship between the Faculty of Medicine and the Popes?

If you look at the speeches delivered at the inauguration – there was a reigning Pope and another who would ascend to the throne shortly after, because the then Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini was also present – it was a relationship of constant attention and presence. Already on the occasion of that celebration, everyone grasped and was immediately aware of the ideal meaning of the creation of a Faculty of Medicine at the Catholic University. It meant witnessing an approach to medical practice, scientific research in the field of medicine, education and practice that were inspired and shaped by the values ​​that characterize us. There is a phrase by Montini in which he says that the patient in our hospital goes in search of “meaning and remedy” for his illness. Now, the remedy is sought in all hospitals, to seek a meaning for the disease, which is the great question that all people have when they fall ill, well this is perhaps a little more characteristic of a Catholic hospital.

Without forgetting the figure of Father Gemelli, from whom this intuition was born …

Of course, he is a doctor. He graduated in medicine in Pavia in an ideally positivist scientific research context. He was a psychologist, and at one point he perceived and felt very strongly the relational dimension of medical practice, in the sense of the relationship with the patient, and he wanted the doctor who was trained at Gemelli to witness this approach. He is one of the pioneers of the scientific approach to psychological questions.

In these 60 years, how have these values ​​been related to medical research and innovation?

Certainly, medicine has changed enormously over time and it is necessary to constantly rethink and redefine the role of the doctor as a man and the relationship between him and the patient as an intersubjective relationship. It is very easy to fall into a drift very oriented towards treatment and medicine as a technique, understood not only as mechanical technology – today there are technologies of great refinement and sophistication – but also as a stereotyped and formal procedural approach to treatment. The humanization of medicine requires a strong recovery of the dimension of the role of the doctor, not only as a subject who applies a protocol or handles technological instruments or administers especially advanced drugs, but also, at the level of professional action, recovers in the first place the approach to the integrity of the person of the patient in the face of a specialization, very useful, sometimes inevitably saving, but which leads to fragment the approach and, therefore, sometimes to see individual diseases rather than the complex clinical picture. It is an eminently technical question of approaching the patient, which can also be resolved with the implementation of special models of hospital organization, which carry a plurality of competences simultaneously around the same patient, but on the other hand with the need to remember always the person of the patient, who cannot be approached simply by attending to the results of clinical or diagnostic imaging tests, and therefore it is necessary to remember that these X-rays, that set of numbers, of computer projections represent a human person.

This approach is also necessary in the training of future doctors and students of the Faculty. For example, among the texts that are required for admission, there is also Laudato si ‘, with its integral human development …

The formation of people not only comes from the texts that are entrusted to them as a guide, but also derives from the climate, from the air they breathe daily, from the example they receive from their teachers. This is especially true in a Faculty of Medicine in which teaching, especially in the later years of the career, is not carried out by placing a chair between the professor and the students, but within the hospital, and therefore even more vividly as an example. During a visit to our University, the Holy Father said that we must teach by example and only if necessary with words. Sometimes this is not possible, I would say that in medicine, however, the opportunity is there.

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