REVIEW – December 2008

140 years of Tartu Eye Clinic


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Lectures on eye diseases in the 18th century were included in the course of general surgery. In January 1868 Prof. Georg von Oettingen established the first ophthalmology hospital in Estonia. For this a house was bought on the corner of Vallikraavi and Maarjamõisa streets. On January 10, 1871 the professorship of ophthalmology was ceremoniously established with Prof. von Oettingen being the first head of the chair, (1867–1879). During the following four decades several professors, Eduard Raehlmann (1879–1900), Theodor Ewetzky (1900–1909) and Aleksander Ljutkewitch (1911–1918), supervised the University Eye Hospital. In 1917, during World War I, the hospital was evacuated to Voronezh, Russia. After World War I and the Estonian War of Independence work in the hospital was unsystematic due to the lack of equipment and medicaments. During the Estonian War of Independence a Red Cross military hospital was housed in the building. In December 1920 Prof. Blessig from St. Petersburg was invited to continue professorship in Tartu Eye Hospital. Professor Blessig re-established daily clinical and scientific work in the hospital. He created a decent collection of histological preparations and a library. After Prof. Blessig’s retirement assistant professor Jaan Uudelt was elected, as the first Estonian ophthalmologist, to lead the chair. In 1938, in cooperation with oto-rhino-laryngists, a new building was erected and since that time the two hospitals are situated in the same house. World War II was a devastating period in the history of Tartu Eye Hospital. The building was destroyed, the equipment smashed and lost. Professor Uudelt and the intermediary head of the hospital Dr. Jüri Uusküla (1941–1944) emigrated to Germany. Doctor Valentin Savi was nominated the next head of Tartu Eye Clinic. He started reconstruction of the clinic in 1946. In 1950 Dr. Savi became assistant professor and held professorship until 1958. In the same year Dr. Leo Schotter was elected head of Tartu University Eye Clinic. In 1967 he was elected a professor, his field of research was magnetic surgery. L. Schotter published 188 scientific papers. He was the head of the Estonian Scientific Society of Ophthalmology and the Tartu University Laboratory of Visual Healthcare. He was an honorary member of the Estonian Ophthalmology Society and the Estonian Society of the Blind. In private life he was a well-known composer.  After Prof. Schotter´s retirement in 1993, assistant professor Aleksei Panov became head of Tartu University Eye Clinic. He had graduated in Moscow and the topic of his thesis was ocular traumas. He continued Prof. Schotter`s work in the Tartu University Laboratory of Visual Healthcare acting as its head. Since January 1, 2000, the head of the chair in Tartu University Eye Clinc has been Professor Pait Teesalu. He received his PhD degree from Oulu, Finland, in glaucoma diagnostics. Under Prof. Teesalu’s supervision several scientific projects and studies have been launched. Contacts and co-operation have been established between Tartu Eye Clinic and eye clinics in Finland and in the Baltic States. During 140 years all various eye pathologies have been treated, relevant researches conducted and students trained at Tartu Eye Clinic.