43rd ICMM World Congress on Military Medicine 2019

May 19–24, 2019 / Basel, Switzerland

Opening speech

honorable Representatives of government and international organizations in your titles and functions, generals, admirals, air commodores, distinguished delegates, honorable guests, and all participants of the 43rd ICMM World Congress on Military Medicine,

It is with greatest respect and highest recognition, that I commend the outgoing Chairman, Lieutenant General Bipin Puri from India, for all the great endeavors he and his team have undertaken and the important and precious results he has achieved. The bar is set very high for everyone’s expectations that will surely challenge us.

Switzerland is proud and humbled to be able to serve this fine organization with our chairmanship. I would like to thank ICMM secretary general Major General retired Roger van Hoof and all the member nation’s delegates for their trust and support for the chairmanship for the coming two years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

on our shoulders rest the responsibilities for universal exchange on military medical matters and optimal care for the ones in desperate need. Neutrality and impartiality as well as professional competence are the bases for mutual trust, comprehension, and our common interests and goals.

Switzerland has a long-standing tradition in providing good services for these matters and therefore will strive to promoting mutual discussion and exchange of new medical knowledge and support and extend a strong network of the members of ICMM for the sake of our patients, permitting dialogue where nobody else is talking.

98 years ago, eight brave men joined their spirits to form the organization, now known as the International Committee of Military Medicine. All were still under the impression of the horrors of World War One and the deadly spree of the Spanish Flu, which cost 17 million and 50 million lives each. Under the Hippocratic Oath to always do the best for the patient, military surgeons conjoined to share the newly acquired knowledge in diagnostic and therapeutic medical matters.

Social hygiene as a subject of utmost importance was put on the agenda, as populations of young men were now under the auspices of military medical services, permitting to educate them on matters of personal hygiene. Remember, it was the twenty to forty years old who had been struck the most by the evils of time.

In the first congress statement, the sharing of latest advances in medical knowledge was considered a highly humanitarian act. The position of military medicine was seen as central to all governments to implement measures of national health protection.

To note a phenomenon, which is repeatedly appearing in history - every time disaster or war strikes - preparedness levels are usually low. Many lives are lost and there is always someone to blame – in case of Switzerland it was the surgeon general who had to take the hit for dramatic losses during the Spanish Flu – he was even incarcerated until he could prove that all his plans for preparedness were blocked by the Swiss national parliament before. He was finally exonerated and stayed in his post until 1936 – never giving up to fight for better military medical services and care for our patients.

Ladies and gentlemen,

many of us are taken by administrative battles and are exposed to power games, taking our focus away from the center of gravity of our profession and passion. Nevertheless, we should never forget what our aim is, and who we are there for.

It is my conviction that we should indulge in these virtues of humanity and support for the victims of suffering in the direst circumstances. Our international congress aims at offering an open platform for professional discussion in utmost respect for individual views and cultural diversity. Mutual respect honors professionalism and open-mindedness is the key to knowledge. Tolerance and dialogue create the base for trust, and trust is needed to build peace.

Switzerland is now enjoying more than 150 years of peace, which makes us committed to these ideals which are at the heart of the International Committee of Military Medicine. Connectivity and connection are the bases for a functioning network even when crisis hits. This international congress is organized to offer as many opportunities as possible to strengthen our network and to acquire even more connections. Connectivity will open pathways to future development.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In conclusion, may we never give up to fight for the best care for our patients and may we never stop to share our knowledge and wisdom in the humane interest of all.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We wish you some very interesting and enriching days at this conference, with lots of fruitful discussions and substantial results. Swiss hospitality at its best is prepared to enable the stage for a most enjoyable and satisfying experience.

Thank you very much.