I regret very deeply indeed that due to state business, which calls me abroad, I have to be absent from today’s special session in honour of Professor and Academician Costas Stefanis. I believe that this occasion reflects honour not only upon him as an individual, but also upon Greece as a whole. The special session comes as yet one more tribute – an extremely significant one at that – to all that Costas Stefanis has been doing for the betterment of Medical Science, of Scientific Enquiry and society at large. There is no doubt that Professor C. Stefanis’ contribution has been huge and cannot be adequately dealt with in the few words of commendation that I can offer – as a layman rather, than as somebody directly engaged in his discipline.
I shall dwell only on a few aspects of his work, which I do believe are already familiar to those who serve Medical Science and Public welfare, both in Greece and abroad.
Having studied with distinction in Greece and in illustrious foreign institutions, Costas Stefanis pursued a brilliant academic career, becoming a Professor, and Director of the Psychiatric Clinic of the University of Athens for no less than 26 years. He went on to found the University Research Institute for Mental Health, and has been its director for some 20 years. But – even for him – the posts he held never carried as much weight as his work did. In the course of his tenure thousands of medical students and hundreds of Psychiatry majors have trained under him. They are all stamped with the indelible hallmark of an outstanding teacher who was never content merely to impart knowledge, but inspired his students with it and, more importantly, with his exemplary brand of academic decency and personal integrity.
In the exceptionally challenging scientific discipline of Psychiatry, he has pursued moderation, never excluding anyone, and favouring an approach that engages many diverse currents in an attempt to come to grips with the problem of mental disorder. His teaching has been closely linked to research and has made of the Psychiatric Clinic of the University of Athens and of the University Research Institute on Mental Health the most prestigious research centres of their kind in Greece. With their hundreds of contributions in international journals, and the wealth of other publications they generate, they have gained pre-eminence in the international world of research in the Neurosciences and Psychiatry.
He has been the motive force behind the Reform of the Greek Mental Health Services and it was on his initiative that the University’s Psychiatric Clinic set up the first deinstitutionalized Community Mental Health Centres which subsequently came to be established as the preferred modality of mental health care provision in the context of official government policy.
The Greek scientific community has often had occasion to pay him tribute for his indefatigable work and seminal contribution which still continue unabated to this day. Fourteen years ago he was invited to join the Academy of Athens as a regular member, and was elected its president for the year 2006. No matter what public post or office he was appointed to by the State, when not of an exclusively scientific nature, he would always comport himself in full awareness of his duty, and would serve as an inspiration rather than as an enforcer, since prudence, consequence, and dedication were always his guiding principles: and he always forbore to let appearances gain the upper hand over the substance.
Outside Greece, the scope and weight of his work is not only reflected in tributes and awards, but also in the positions of responsibility to which several International Organizations, and his colleagues appointed him. His fellowships in several foreign Academies and his honorary memberships in scores of foreign Scientific Societies are just an indication of the international recognition he has gained.
Of his many responsible posts internationally I will touch on the one that is very important and relevant in view also of today’s special session. I am referring to his election, 25 years ago, as President of the World Psychiatric Association for a term of six years. For his scientific career, and at what was a critical juncture for the Association itself, what could have been more significant than that his colleagues from the world over should entrust him with its leadership. Professor and Academician Stefanis has contributed a great deal but has also been recompensed with a great deal in terms of the recognition accorded to his efforts.
I believe that, graced as it is with the presence and speeches of all his successors in the Presidency of the World Psychiatric Association, this great and distinguished Society, today’s special session is special indeed, and not at all ordinary. History tells us that it is the way of world for people who succeed somebody in a post to be indifferent or remiss in the fulfilment of their duty to honour the one that came before them. With their presence, with their speeches, Costas Stefanis’ successors, persons of great worth and renown, have departed from and put paid to this practice. I congratulate them and offer them my heartfelt thanks. I would also like to congratulate those whose initiative it was to organize this event in honour of Costas Stefanis, physician, teacher, Academician, this man who is so remarkable for his generous public contribution to the community. I am participating in this session, albeit from afar, with particular personal emotion.