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OBITUARY

In Memoriam: Jiří Widimský Sr. 1925–2020

Kreutz, Reinholda; Cífková, Renatab; Kjeldsen, Sverre E.c; Narkiewicz, Krzysztofd; Burnier, Michele; Oparil, Suzannef; Mancia, Giuseppeg

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doi: 10.1097/HJH.0000000000002768
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The sad news came to us of the passing of Jiří Widimský Sr. on 11 November 2020 at the age of 95 years; this could have been expected due to the gradual deterioration of his condition in the last few years.

Prof Jiří Widimský, MD, DSc, FESC, FAHA was born on 31 March 1925 in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, where he was raised and completed his secondary education in 1944. He graduated from the First Medical School, Charles University in Prague with Promotion sub Auspiciis on 8 September 1950.

He started his medical career in a District Hospital of Carlsbad and in 1951, he became a PhD fellow at the newly established Institute for Circulatory Diseases in Prague, under the mentorship of the legendary director Prof Jan Brod. In 1957, he successfully defended his PhD thesis entitled ‘Juvenile Hypertension’, published locally in the Thomayer Collection (Avicenum, Prague, 1957) and in German in Arch Kreislaufforsch in 1958 [1]. The key hemodynamic part of his thesis appeared also in English, an important achievement, as in the postwar years it was often difficult for researchers from Eastern European countries to have their articles accepted in Western Journals [2].

It should be emphasized that Widimský et al. had then described a group of 98 young hypertensive patients who were in a hyperkinetic state, characterized by tachycardia and increased pulse pressure. It is most amazing to see that these observations were later confirmed by extensive invasive hemodynamic studies of Per Lund-Johansen in Bergen [3] and Stevo Julius in Ann Arbor [4].

Widimský continued his research at the Institute for Circulatory Diseases, later becoming the Department of Cardiology within the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague, where he spent most of his professional career. In the early 1960s, he mostly focused on pulmonary circulation, also during his 13-month fellowship (1961–1962) of the Swedish Society for Cardiology and Lung Diseases, working in the Department of Internal Medicine, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden under the mentorship of Prof Lars Werkö. During that period, he published extensively and returned several times to the Department of Clinical Physiology, at Sahlgrenska; each time for a period of 3–4 months (1967, 1968, and 1969).

Widimský became an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at Charles University in Prague in 1968 with the habilitation thesis: ‘Acute pulmonary hypertension – cardiopulmonary function during unilateral pulmonary artery occlusion’ [5]. He became a Doctor of Sciences (DSc) in 1969 with the monograph ‘Pulmonary hypertension’, published in Germany: ‘Pulmonale Hypertonie’, G. Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart–New York [6]. Widimský achieved a full Professorship of Internal Medicine at Charles University in Prague in 1978.

In the years 1970–1983, he was Head of the Department of Cardiology at the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine, and, in 1983–1993, Head of the Department of Cardiology at the Institute for Postgraduate Medical Education. He was famous for being extremely well informed about all recent development in cardiology, including results of large clinical trials.

Widimský authored 47 monographs, some of them published abroad. He was also the author of numerous chapters in both national and international monographs, and the author or coauthor of about one thousand professional publications in Czech and foreign languages. His last publications as the first author are dated from 2015, the year when he celebrated his 90th birthday and the Czech Society of Hypertension fulfilled his wish and presented him with a color laser printer so much needed for his never-ending writing activity.

Prof Widimský Sr. was extremely active in international professional societies: the President of the European Society for the Pathophysiology of Respiration (1974–1976); a council member of the European Society of Cardiology (1976–1984), the Vice-President of the European Society of Cardiology (1980–1984); and, since 1982, a corresponding member of the British Cardiovascular Society. He became an International Fellow of the American Heart Association in 1985, a Fellow of the European Society of Cardiology in 1988 and a member of the New York Academy of Sciences in 1995. He was a member of the European Board for Speciality in Cardiology of the European Union since 1998. He became a member of the International Society for Hypertension (ISH) in 1981 and joined the European Society for Hypertension (ESH) when it was established a few years later. He held honorary memberships in the Czech Medical Society, the Czech Society of Cardiology, the Czech Internal Medicine Society, the Czech Angiology Society and in the Czech Society for Atherosclerosis. He was Honorary President of the Czech Society of Hypertension. In 2007, he became an honorary member of the ESH.

The Prague Organizing Committee of the 2002 Joint ISH/ESH Meeting established Prof Jiří Widimský Sr. Award to be presented to three distinguished young European investigators (not older than 40 years) who had conducted promising research in the field of clinical or experimental hypertension and presented it at European Meetings on Hypertension. The award was provided by the Czech Foundation for Hypertension Research until 2012.

Prof Widimský Sr. was a recipient of numerous honors and awards: in 2005, a medal of the Czech Minister of Health for his outstanding services to the Czech Healthcare System; in 2007, the Hlávka Life-Long Achievement Award and in 2012, Honorary Diploma provided by the Foundation of Dagmar and Václav Havel for his life-long medical scientific activity. Prof Widimský also served as a consultant to the WHO. He was from 1974 to 1992 Editor-in-Chief of Cor et Vasa, the only international journal in cardiology published in English in Eastern European countries at the time.

In this photo taken in the year 2000, he is no. 5 from the right, surrounded by other council members of the Czech Society of Hypertension, including his son Jiří Jr. (no. 2 from the left) and obituary author R.C. (no. 7 from the left).

The breadth and impact of scientific activity of Prof Widimský within the cardiovascular field was greatest in hypertension research. Besides being among the first to characterize the hemodynamics of hypertension in young individuals [1,2], he was also involved in multiple national and international large clinical trials. Thus, he served as a member of the steering committee and as a national coordinator at the same time for the Valsartan Antihypertensive Long-term Use Evaluation trial [7], the only mega trial that has ever compared head to head a blocker of the renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system with a calcium antagonist. It showed the noninferiority of cardiac events and stroke for the comparison of valsartan vs. amlodipine, a finding of crucial importance for all guidelines in the field of hypertension.

Prof Widimský's two sons, Peter and Jiří Jr., are both internationally recognized in the fields of cardiology and hypertension and two of his seven grandchildren have become physicians too.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Conflicts of interest

R.K. is President of ESH, R.C. is a previous secretary of ESH and a staff member with Prof Widimský, S.E.K., K.N., M.B. and S.O. are Editors of Blood Pressure and G.M. is Editor of Journal of Hypertension. None reports conflicts of interest related to this obituary.

REFERENCES

1. Widimsky J, Fejfarova HM, Fejfar Z, Dejdar R, Exnerova M, Pirk F. Der jugendliche Hochdruck [Juvenile hypertension]. Arch Kreislaufforsch 1958; 28:100–124. German.
2. Widimský J, Fejfar MH, Fejfar Z. Changes of cardiac output in hypertensive disease. Cardiologia (Basel) 1957; 31:381–389.
3. Lund-Johansen P. Hemodynamics in early essential hypertension. Acta Med Scand 1967; 181: (Suppl. 482): 2–101.
4. Julius S, Pascual AV, London R. Role of parasympathetic inhibition in the hyperkinetic type of borderline hypertension. Circulation 1971; 44:413–418.
5. Widimsky J, Kasalicky J, Prerovsky I, Dejdar R. Central hemodynamics in recurrent embolism. Am Heart J 1966; 71:206–215.
6. Widimský J. Pulmonale Hypertonie. Bücherei des Pneumologen Bd. 6. 1981; Stuttgart–New York: Thieme Verlag, 350 pages.
7. Julius S, Kjeldsen SE, Weber M, Brunner HR, Ekman S, Hansson L, et al. Outcomes in hypertensive patients at high cardiovascular risk treated with regimens based on valsartan or amlodipine: the VALUE randomised trial. Lancet 2004; 363:2022–2031.
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