Academic care and medical training has been provided in Groningen for hundreds of years. Of the excellent scientists who have worked here Petrus Camper (1722-1789) is by far the best known. Most of the professors also held the position of city physician and, as a result, were able to combine science and education with patient care. In 1797 Professor Thomassen à Thuessink (1762-1832) was responsible for the establishment of a real teaching hospital, the Nosocomium Academicum. Thomassen à Thuessink was Professor of practical medicine in Groningen from 1793 tot 1825 and may be considered the founder of the UMCG.
Nothing like today
Two small wards with a total of eight beds: that’s what the UMCG looked like in the very early days. The contrast with today could not be bigger. These days the hospital is occupied by 15,000 patients, employees, students and visitors every day. But there are also similarities to the past: the professors still give medical students a ‘bedside education’.
An uphill battle
Adversity has never stopped residents of Groningen from taking initiatives and realizing dreams. Despite the unwillingness of the Dutch government to invest in research and patient care in Groningen, top-level care was being provided in the 19th century UMCG regardless. The lack of facilities did not impede the development of a fertile scientific climate either. The UMCG has always been able to attract inspired and enthusiastic professors with vision, powers of persuasion and perseverance. They raised the patient care, science and education to a higher level. The scientific growth reached a preliminary high point after the move to a brand-new complex in 1903. The new hospital had been built in line with the latest insights in the area of hospital construction of the day, and attracted interested parties from the whole country, including members of the Royal Family. From 1903 onward the UMCG rapidly developed to become one of the top hospitals of the Netherlands. Like today, patients could turn to the UMCG for all medical treatments and care. And like today, scientific discoveries quickly found their way to the clinic, in the form of new treatment methods.
The current top-clinical expertise of the UMCG in the area of chronic diseases and transplant medicine has its roots in the start of the 20th century. Around 1900, for instance, the international scientific community looked toward Groningen where professor Hamburger was working on research into the composition of blood and the changes to this composition under the influence of metabolic processes. In that same period professor Wenckebach (1864-1941) was at the cradle of modern cardiology in the Netherlands. Professor Hijmans van den Bergh made important discoveries for diagnosing liver diseases and female Professor Tammes laid the foundation for genetics in the Netherlands.