Union of the
The Medical Specialty for Communication and Swallowing Disorders

*15th October 1930 Hodonín
†2nd April 2013 Lucerne

The Union of the European Phoniatricians takes leave of its esteemed member Prof.Dr.med.Karel Vrtička, who passed away at the age of 82. Prof. Vrtička was a pioneer among the phoniatricians, both in Prague and in Europe. Together with the founders of the Prague Phoniatrics, Prof.Dr.Miloslav Seeman und Doc.Dr.Eva Sedláčková, he was central to the founding of the world’s first phoniatric clinic, and he made this internationally renoun through his research activity.

Our colleague‘s rich life is probably best described by the analogy of a mosaic, where each individual piece has its own significance in the overall picture. Prof. Vrtička also very much liked to refer to the same analogy of a mosaic when talking about the complex nature of human speech.

Prof. Vrtička grew up in the family of a Moravian physician. His mother was a teacher, and he always used to say that he inherited his passion for teaching from her. In fact, he devoted a big part of his life to perfecting his teaching skills. His lectures and speeches were highly regarded and valued. He taught at the Universities of Fribourg and Zürich and trained several generations of logopedics.

Prof. Vrtička was appointed to establish the first phoniatric department comprising the education of phoniatrics and logopedics in Luzern, Switzerland in 1967. He trained five Swiss phoniatricians in his specialty, and hosted numerous colleagues in his department to offer them an insight into phoniatrics. He also supervised many medical and logopedic degree dissertations. His extensive scientific work includes over 100 publications, in which he covered almost all problems of our specialty. His emphasis, however, was on the assessment of the oesophageal voice and the congenital hypoplasia of the soft palate – the Sedláčková Syndrome. Among many other findings, he published the first clinically utilizable CT-images of the pseudoglottis by laryngectomees, as well as the first meaningful CT-images of the normal and insufficient velo-pharyngeal closure. He also succeeded in demonstrating a microdeletion of the chromosome 22q11.2 as the genetic cause of the velocardiofacial Sedláčková Syndrome.

After receiving status of the emeritus, our colleague continued to publish illustrated summaries of national and international congresses and meetings, always of great professional and literary quality. These reports were highly valued in professional circles.

Prof. Vrtička devoted his life to music and speech. He was particularly fascinated by the music of his Moravian fellow countryman Leoš Janáček, who succeeded in translating the music of the speech into scores. Only four months before his passing, he published his last scientific contribution dedicated to Vašek’s stuttering in the Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana.

Prof. Vrtička was both a founding and honorary member of the Swiss Society of Phoniatricians. On the occasion of the Lucerne Symposium to celebrate his 80th birthday, the Charles University of Prague bestowed their greatest honor by awarding him their greatest distinction - the diploma of the natural scientist Jan Evangelista Purkyně.

We will retain the memory of our colleague Prof.Dr.med. Karel Vrtička with greatest honor and esteem.

Prof.Dr.med.Dr.h.c.Joseph Sopko, Basel, and Doc.MUDr.František Šram, CSc., Prague

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