History of the Belgian Hand Group (BHG)
Prof. Em. Dr. Paul Wylock
Former Head of the Department of Plastic Surgery, University Hospital Brussels
Honorary Member of the BHG since 2015
“…a hand is a life, a destiny…”
Hendrik Marsman (1899-1940)
The hand is indeed a life, a destiny…
The aim of this historical study is to pay tribute to all those who made the surgery of the hand their destiny, “their aim of life”.
The Belgian Hand Group was established on May 30. 1972 by the six founding members:
A. de Coninck, G. Matton, E. Vander Elst, G. Calberg, P. Van Wetter and J.J. Rombouts.
The bylaws of the Belgian Hand Group (BHG) are:
to stimulate the knowledge and development of the scientific disciplines involved in hand surgery
to improve the research in hand surgery from a scientific, clinical and social point of view
to improve the quality of the care of hand injuries and hand handicaps in the entire country
to stimulate the collaboration between various specialists, doctors and surgeons interested in the issues related to the hand
to stimulate the collaboration between the various institutions involved in prevention, treatment and re-education of patients with a hand handicap.
The society is located in Brussels.
The society counts honorary, working and associated members.
The society holds yearly two scientific conventions.
The leading languages are Dutch, French and English.
The board of directors, who are chosen by the general assembly, directs the society.
Presidents of the BHG were:
1972 – 76 : A. de Coninck
1976 – 78 : G. Calberg
1978 – 80 : G. Matton
1980 – 82 : H. Evrard
1982 – 84 : M. Lejour
1984 – 86 : G. Lejeune
1986 – 88 : H. De Frenne
1988 – 90 : P. Van Wetter
1990 – 92 : P. Wylock
1992 – 94 : A. Carlier
1994 – 96 : L. Kinnen
1996 – 98 : J.P. Moermans
1998 – 00 : L. De Smet
2000 – 02 : F. Schuind
2002 – 04 : D. Vanden Berghe
2004 – 06 : F. Van Innis
2006 – 08 : R. Van Damme
2008 – 10 : O. Barbier
2010 – 12 : J. Goubau
2012 – 14 : J. Bahm
2014 – 16 : N. Hollevoet
2016 – 18: Luc Van Overstraeten
Secretaries of the BHG were:
1972-1982: JJ. Rombouts
1982-1987: J. Fissette
1987-1988: F. Schuind
1988-1990: A. Vanhaesebrouck
1990-1994: F. Schuind
1994-1996: L. De Smet
1996-1998: L. Kinnen
1998-2000: P. Ledoux
2000-2012: Y. Baeten
2012-2014: K. Buedts
2014-2016: Jeroen Vanhaecke
The First Board of Directors from 1972 – 75:
Albert de Coninck: president
Georges Calberg: vice-president
Pierre Van Wetter: treasurer
Jean-Jacques Rombouts: secretary
Guido Matton and Edouard Vander Elst: counsellors
The first president was Dr. A. de Coninck. He was a plastic surgeon from Brussels, who worked in La Clinique des Deux Alices and at the UCL. He organized the first meeting of the BHG in Brussels on December 9, 1972.
The second president of the Belgian Hand Group was Dr. Georges Calberg from 1976 to 78. He was the editor of the Acta Orthopaedica Belgica and it is interesting to read a few sentences from his autobiography “…Je partie donc à Paris suivre le deuxième cours organisé en France sur la chirurgie de la main, par Iselin. Il était le pionnier français de cette chirurgie, séduissant, intelligent, à la parole facile comme tous Français, fin psychologue, très didactique et convaincant dans son enseignement pour novices…”
“ J’acceptai de participer à la création d’une nouvelle société scientifique, le BHG, ainsi nommmé pour ménager les susceptibilités linguistiques…”
The third president from 1978 to 80 was Prof. Guido Matton, head of the department of plastic surgery at the University Hospital in Ghent.
He was the only Dutch speaking founding member and the father of plastic surgery in Flanders. He is also my teacher. Professor Matton was a trainee of J.W. Littler.
A remarkable event was on June 10, 1978 when professor Matton organized a joint meeting of the Belgian Hand Group together with the Belgian Society of Plastic Surgery.
Professor Matton also organized on December 15, 1979 the meeting of the Belgian Hand Group in Ghent and invited Littler (fig 1) and Michon.
From 1980 to 1982 Dr. H. Evrard from Charleroi was the next president and he organized a major event from 29 to 31 May 1981 in Lille where he organized a combined meeting of the Belgian Hand Group with the Société Française de Chirurgie de la Main.
From 1982 to 84 Prof. Madeleine Lejour (fig 2) was the next president. She was head of the department of plastic surgery at the ULB from 78 till 93. She organized the 10th Anniversary of the Belgian Hand Group in Brussels and invited many European authorities in hand surgery. The guest of honour was John Hueston from Melbourne.
During this 10th anniversary a price was organized for the best scientific paper. First price went to a study by Dr. Calteux and Dr. Bins Ely from the UCL : “Utilisation du microscope à balayage dans l’étude du nerf périphérique normal et de ses modifications morphologiques après microsuture selon différentes techniques.” The second price was for Dr. P. Wylock from the VUB Brussels with his study “Our experience with the Dupuytren’s disease” (fig. 3)
From 1984 to 86 Prof. Georges Lejeune (Fig 4), head of the department of surgery in Liège and past president of the Royal Belgian Society of Surgery, was the next president. It is important to note that the first autoreplantation of a complete avulsion of an arm above the elbow was managed in his department on March 4 in 1971.
It is also important to know that the first thumb replantation in Belgium was done on January 20, 1975 in Brugge by Dr. Monballiu and Dr. Depoorter.
From 1986 to 88 Dr. Hervé De Frenne (fig 5) was the next president. He organized on June 14, 1986 in Waregem a BHG Day with theme “The Rheumatoid Hand”. Guest of honour was professor Tubiana from Paris.
On December 13, 1986 the Belgian Hand Group meeting was organized in the AZ-VUB by Dr. Wylock with the theme “Compression syndromes”.
From 1988 to 90 Dr. Pierre Van Wetter was president. He organized on December 3, 1988 the Belgian Hand Group Meeting with the theme “Head and Hand”.
On December 9 ,1989 Dr. Albert Vanhaesebrouck organized the meeting of the BHG in Sint Niklaas with the theme “Hand surgery in children: congenital and traumatology”. The guest of honour was Prof. Buck Gramcko.
From 1990 to 92 Dr. Paul Wylock was the next president of the BHG. An important day was May 19 , 1990 with the organization of the Belgian Hand Group meeting in the AZ-VUB with the theme “Dupuytren’s Disease”. Prof. J. Hueston was the guest of honour of this day, together with Prof. J. van der Meulen and Prof. D.A. Mc Grouther. (fig 6)
From 1992 to 94 Dr. Alain Carlier from Liège was the next president. He organized on November 28 , 1992 a meeting of the BHG in the Château de Colonstère with as theme “Unsatisfactory results in hand surgery”.
An important event in 1993 was the organization of the First European Congress of the Federation of the European Societies for Surgery of the Hand (FESSH) in Brussels from 26 to 29 May 1993.
The members of the organizing committee were G. Lejeune, F. Schuind, J.P. Moerman, W. Boeckx, A. Carlier, H. De Frenne, S. Monstrey, J. Otthiers, J.J. Rombouts and P. Wylock.
Another important event was the simultaneous organization of a cultural exposition: “Praise of the Hand” organized by Prof. P. Wylock and Prof. W. Elias.
The eye-catcher of this exposition was the thumb of César (fig 7). Also the ten photos with theme “The Hand” of photographer Stan Kenis were noticed.
From 1994 to 96 Dr. Louis Kinnen was the next president. A remarkable event was on May 20 till 21, 1994 with the organization of a “Basic Teaching Day” in Blankenberge with the collaboration of F. Schuind, P. Hoang, D. Goldsmith, L. Kinnen, P. Wylock, JP. Moermans, L. De Smet, B. Zachee, JJ. Rombouts, R. Van Damme, B. Van Innis, A. Carlier, P. Haentjens and P. Ledoux, together with our families, to have some social activities at the seaside.
From 1996 to 98 Dr. Jean-Pierre Moermans was the next president. An important day was the meeting of the BHG in Brussels on January 10, 1998 with the theme “ Soft Tissue Repair, Scarring and Adhesion” with D.A. Mc Grouther as a keynote speaker.
From 1998 to 2000 Prof. Luc De Smet was the next president. An important day was the meeting of the BHG in the Pellenberg Hospital with the theme “Paediatric Hand Pathology”. The keynote speakers were G. Foucher, D. Evans and S. Hovius.
From 2000 to 2002 Prof. Frederic Schuind was the next president. He organized on October 18 till 19 , 2001 the combined meeting of the Belgian Hand Group together with the British Society for Surgery of the Hand at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.
On June 18 2001 the website of the Belgian Hand Group was established: www.belgianhandgroup.be
From 2002 to 2004 Dr. Danny Vanden Berghe was the next president.
An important event was the 30th anniversary of the BHG with a two-days congress on January 18-19, 2002 at the Château de Limelette, where a picture was made of most of the past presidents of the BHG (fig 8).
Conclusion: it is hoped that this overview have proved that the Belgian Hand Group has been so far a very dynamic group, with dynamic surgeons, we learnt from our preceptors and we evolved in a rather spectacular way.
A new generation is now ready to take over.
“Honour those who go first
Even if those who came later go further”
Sir Sydney Sunderland, 1977.