They support the development of science in their fields of interest, conduct publishing activity, organise scientific assemblies and conferences, popularise research results – these are just some of the aspects of the operations of medical science societies.
There are several dozen of such societies in Poland. The oldest ones date back to the early 19th century. The oldest and most numerous medical science society is the Polish Society of Physicians, which was established in 1805 in Vilnius. Other societies boasting long traditions include the Polish Association of Balneology and Physical Medicine, established in 1905, and the Polish Society of Microbiologists, established in 1927.
Societies integrate the community
Scientific societies encompass physicians of almost all specialisations – from allergists, surgeons, cardiologists, neurologists, ophthalmologists, and oncologists, to sexologists, dentists, or urologists.
Physicians are not the only group to have their own science society. There are also societies of pharmacists, lab diagnosticians, or microbiologists. There is even the Polish Society of Hospital-Acquired Infections, which can be joined by anyone, whose professional activity is directly associated with the practice of hospital-acquired infection control.
Medical societies are also associated in the Federation of Polish Medical Societies.
Wacław Kuczmik, MD, President of the Polish Society for Vascular Surgery told the e-zdrowie web portal that science societies mainly assist in the integration of the community.
“It is a place for discussion and establishing certain standards, including future operations. Medicine is still evolving, new therapy methods are appearing, and such a place serves the exchange of experience and information," he told the website.
According to Mr Kuczmik, some physicians consider membership in a science society as prestige of sorts.
What do medical science societies do?
Medical societies have similar objectives. The main ones include expanding knowledge and increasing the scientific level and professional qualifications of their members, actions favouring the integration of the community, cooperating with the State administration authorities, professional self-governing bodies, and associations in order to provide an appropriate level of medical care in a given field of medicine, as well as organising scientific surveys and conferences.
The societies also conduct and support various forms of educational and training activities. For this reason, their objectives include, among other things, the development of diagnostic guidelines and recommendations for action in the event of a particular disease.
However, Dr. Kuczmik highlighted that the recommendations of the societies, much like all other recommendations in medicine – cannot be treated rigidly.
“The man, the medicine, and the disease cannot be described like a mathematical equation. In this case, there is always a certain margin of the unknown. Standards and recommendations are only to assist in making therapeutic decisions," Dr. Kuczmik told the e-zdrowie website.
The responsibilities of a scientific society member include participation in the activities of the society, in the organised debates, scientific symposia, presentation of own opinions, and being active in discussions.
“Of course, the membership also entails an obligation to pay membership fees," added Dr. Kuczmik.
All science societies in Poland, not just the medical ones, are currently experiencing the same problem – there is no legally defined concept of a science society. The societies operate under the Associations Act of 1989.