The History of AMDE and AMSE

The Association of Medical Schools in Europe – AMSE – began as AMDE, the Association of Medical Deans in Europe, in 1979.

During a discussion at the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) conference in Athens in 1979, it was agreed that there was a need for a forum in Europe for medical schools (embodied as their deans) to meet and discuss and work on matters of mutual interest. This group would become AMDE. The discussion took place on a boat trip to Epidaurus during the AMEE meeting – thus, AMDE, like Aphrodite, was born from the sea.

At the time, AMEE was itself still a young organisation: the AMEE foundation committee had first met in San Remo in 1971, and the first AMEE conference was held in Uppsala in 1977.

A committee was established, chaired by Wim Lammers (of Groningen, The Netherlands), to draft a constitution for AMDE and to prepare the first meeting, which was held in Groningen in 1980. At the time, the agreed aims of AMDE were:

  • exploration of the future of medical schools
  • admission policies and their relation to the outcome of medical education
  • the professional profile of medical graduates in relation to the changing needs of health care
  • research and medical schools

The conferences in 1981, 1982 and 1983 were in Madrid, Cambridge and Prague. Interestingly, the theme of the conference in Prague in 1983 (postgraduate education and related questions) was very similar to the theme of AMSE 2009 in Zagreb: issues and problems do not go away.

The next three meetings were in Oslo, Jerusalem and Lisbon, followed (in 1987) by a joint meeting with AMEE in Dublin in 1987, producing a report on “Strategies for change in medical education” which was presented to the WHO Regional Committee Meeting. After meetings in Istanbul, Munster, Budapest, Paris and Dundee (1992), a special meeting was convened in Utrecht in April 1993 to discuss the future of AMDE.

Up to this time (1993), meetings of AMDE had been held next to meetings of AMEE, so that deans and other members of AMDE with interests in the work of AMEE could conveniently attend both meetings. The meetings of AMEE, of course, centred on medical education: research and new thinking in education, educational methods and the like. AMDE, in contrast, was interested in all the functions and responsibilities of medical schools and faculties from the point of view of the leadership of the school, including the management of medical schools and the management of education, research, relations with the health care system and so on.

The reasons why it was felt necessary to reconsider the structure and policy of AMDE, at this time, are complex. It was felt that AMDE had not adequately fulfilled the diverse needs and interests of deans and medical schools, had overlapped too much with AMEE, and had not disseminated its activities adequately throughout medical schools in Europe. There was concern that meetings of AMDE, in their existing form, were not sufficiently attractive to medical school deans or their representatives. It is notable that the programmes for these last few meetings of AMDE, between 1988 and 1992, had not had the strong thematic emphasis of the earlier meetings.

The special Utrecht meeting (1993) was the outcome of intense discussion during the AMEE and AMDE meetings in Paris (1991) about the future direction of both organisations. During this debate it was suggested that core academic faculty from medical schools was scarcely represented at the annual AMEE meetings, and that too few deans attended the AMDE meetings. Should AMEE meetings be encouraged to grow, with large numbers of free communications, or should the emphasis be on a structured programme, primarily with invited speakers, who were expert in their subject area? Should a much more clear division in mission between the two organizations be developed?

In order to link academic medicine closer to medical education it was agreed to restructure AMDE into AMSE. It was at the same time clear that AMEE could develop to attract a very broad audience of medical teachers, opening up possibilities to discuss and present small educational projects – not necessarily of high academic excellence, but hoping to stimulate educational research that, in time, would increase in quality.

  • AMEE has, since then, evolved into an association attracting a wide range of medical teachers, and educators from other health professions, to a very large annual international meeting with broad communications, workshops, posters courses, parallel sessions, and so on.
  • AMSE has succeeded in increasing the number of faculty staff participants from medical schools in Europe. AMSE has concentrated on the practice of a smaller annual conference, without parallel sessions, primarily with invited speakers, and always concentrating on a topical theme of interest to the deans of medical schools and faculties, and to those interested in the problems of leading and running a medical school.

There was also a decision that meetings of AMSE need not be close in time and place to those of AMEE. This would also help to establish the clear identities of the two organisations. This policy has continued, although frequently reviewed and the subject of intense discussion, notably at the meeting in Porto in 2000.

The first conference of the new organisation was held in Lublin, in September 1993 followed by Perugia (1994) and Vienna (1995). Click here for a list of all Annual Conferences since 1993.

Some of the many highlights from this recent era should be mentioned: AMSE’s largest-ever attendance, in Barcelona in 2008; the last minute rescue of the 2003 conference, when the venue originally planned became unavailable; and conference dinners at sea, in Turku (2005) and Lisbon (2007) – thus, AMSE continues to return to its birthplace on the sea.

Finally, there follows a list of the former Presidents who have guided AMDE and AMSE through its interesting and sometimes turbulent history:

2014 – 2019Prof Peter Dieter (†), Dresden
2004 – 2013:Prof David Gordon, Copenhagen
2001 – 2004:Prof Peter Hach (†), Prague
2000 – 2001:Prof Antonio Campos, Granada
1994 – 2000:Prof Sergio Curtoni (†), Turin
1991 – 1994:Prof Václav Janoušek (†), Prague
1989 – 1991:Prof Gay Love (†), Belfast
1985 – 1988:Prof Albert Oriol Bosch, Barcelona
1982 – 1985:Prof Stuart Kilpatrick, Cardiff
1979 – 1982:Prof Wim Lammers (†), Groningen

Stuart Kilpatrick, Albert Oriol Bosch, Antonio Campos and Petr Hach (†) are all, fittingly, Honorary Members of AMSE, as is Andrzej Wojtczak, one of our founders.