MCI Remembers Professor Michał Troszyński
July 21, 2017
Professor Bogdan Chazan

Professor Michał Troszyński

1921 – 2017

Professor Michał Troszyński, an ob-gyn and a master and educator of many generations of doctors, midwives and nurses, died on July 13, 2017. Many Polish mothers and their children owe their life and health to the professor. If not directly, then due to his enormous effective efforts to improve ob-gyn care in Poland. Numerous generations of medical students and doctors have acquired knowledge of obstetric care from his textbooks.

He was born in Czekanówek, a small estate at the Wel river near Lidzbark. He completed his medical studies at the Gdańsk Medical Academy in 1952. Already in the fourth year of study, Ireneusz Roszkowski, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, offered him as a student a part-time job at the Gdańsk clinic. When he finished his MD, he left for Poznan with Dr. Ireneusz Roszkowski. They worked together for four years in the clinic at Polna Street. Troszyński lived with his wife, Wiesława, on site. After four years, Roszkowski was referred to the Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinical Department in Warsaw at Karowa Street. He asked Troszyński to go with him. He entered a new stage of his life and career that would last the next 19 years.

He openly opposed the abortion law, which was introduced in 1956. Already at that time he was characterized by his independent thinking and his indifference to indoctrination. He was awarded the post of associate professor only 4 years after being conferred his postdoctoral degree. He was reluctant to talk about these matters later.

In 1975, he started work at the Institute of Mother and Child, where he assumed the post of the head of the Department of Perinatology and a deputy director of the Institute of Reproductive Medicine. Although the conditions in the clinical department were difficult, the number of births were very high. The department quickly became renowned throughout Warsaw. I joined the team in 1978. Jerzy Leibschang, MD, my colleague, was the deputy of the Professor. Professor Troszyński was a demanding boss, he rarely praised his colleagues. Sometimes he openly aired his dissatisfaction, but he, usually, comforted his distressed or crying colleague. He always believed that there was no place for incompetence at work and that discipline and companionship were the main principles of teamwork. He was always on the standby, ready to answer any call and asked to be informed about difficult cases. He often came from Falenica (18km away) in emergency cases. His priority was the safety of patients and their babies. After several years of work, Prof. Troszyński significantly reduced the perinatal mortality rate in the Clinical Department. I do not recall any mother’s death. We had been taught to react early in case of an emergency. He initiated scientific research, helped young doctors to go abroad for training, and find a suitable centers. He was the supervisor of habilitation dissertations and the advisor of many doctoral theses. He raised five professors. He encouraged hard work, primarily by his own example. Until the end of his life he was full of enthusiasm, young people gathered around him who willingly helped him in analyzing and publishing joint papers. He highlighted the great importance of the role of midwives in the clinic, and he cared about their professional development, often talked to them, asked for advice, and supported them. He defended life from the moment of conception, defended family and perceived obstetrics as a maternity medicine.

He did not attach much importance to financial matters, none of the staff would dare to discuss the issue of monthly salary. He had a modest car. He did not give much consideration to developing private practice, he always wanted to be available to all patients. He denied any signs of favoring one patient at the expense of others.

Between 1979 and 1991 he was a national consultant in obstetrics and gynecology. He prepared annual analyses of the quality of maternity care for the whole country. He taught generations of doctors how to use them for their own needs and only later for nationwide analysis. He devoted much time to the training of physicians, head doctors and clinic managers.

He was a member of John Paul II Scientific Council at the Catholic University of Lublin, and took part in a scientific symposium organized at this university even in as late as 2016. He chaired the National Team for the Promotion of Natural Family Planning. He encouraged me to participate in the work of “MaterCare International” run by Prof. Robert Walley. Professor Troszynski is the author of over 200 papers published in national journals and approximately 60 in foreign journals.

Professor Troszynski was an erudite, he had a great memory, he knew Latin and Greek, and he was able to pick a wise and witty sentence in one of these languages appropriate for any situation. He liked the company of others and others liked his company. He had a great sense of humor, at the same time he was a humble man, he did not like any show off, pretense or pompousness. He did not want nor like nor entertain “publicity” around him. He maintained a healthy distance from it until the end. He was a titan of work, he was taken to the Surgical Ward directly from his office where he was working. He was always faithful to his principles, no matter what the consequences. Opportunism and procrastination were alien to him. He never got obstinate in the discussion, he respected the opponent, even if he did not share his opinion.

He gave us an example of how to talk to a patient. When he had a round in the hospital, he did not talk to a patient from a few meters distance, as we often do, frequently analyzing patient’s files at the same time. He was most interested in the patient, a suffering person. He approached the patient, often holding her hand, hugging their head and talking. He cared about shaping the right attitude towards the patients in the team.

He was very sensitive to beauty of the landscape, he had love for Polish land, trees, fields in his DNA. He was upset when someone complained about the weather. For him, all kinds of weather were fine. I do not remember him ever spending time off abroad, he liked to go to Polish mountains and sea. Anyhow, the holidays were the last resort for him, he definitely did not want to leave the clinic for longer than necessary. He was a true patriot, Polish affairs always concerned him very much.

He was decorated with Knight’s Cross and Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta and on April 24, 2017 with the Commander’s Cross.

Personally, I owe very much to Professor Michał Troszyński. It is difficult to publicly talk about it. Very likely, he did not appreciate all of my “activities”. He never expressed his dissatisfaction directly, but he gave an example, offered books to read. He encouraged reflections and discussions on contemporary issues. As a real friend he helped through difficult times, he was a frequent guest at the Holy Family Hospital. I spent a huge part of my professional life, almost 40 years, close to him. Talking to him about the past and present, also about the future, about medicine and life, he was always and still is a source of knowledge, inspiration and energy to me. His inner warmth, goodness, precise memory and kindness, paying great importance to public affairs, ethical issues related to obstetrics and gynecology made these conversations always very interesting, important and inspirational to me. It’s a pity I did not record them. The memory remains…

No words can now express my thoughts, feelings and my gratitude.

To say briefly – thank you. Rest in peace.

Bogdan Chazan
President of the Warsaw Branch of the Catholic Association of Polish Physicians
Warsaw, July 13, 2017