Keynote speech by Prof. Tobias Welte, ERS Past-President

17 October, 2019

During the Opening Session of the ERS Congress, ERS Past-President Prof. Tobias Welte delivered a thoughtful keynote speech that reflected on his time as ERS President, and on the important role of ERS to stand strong in support of science and education in respiratory research and clinical practice. Watch a video recording of the speech in full.

ERS extends its sincere thanks to Prof. Welte for his leadership and dedication to the Society.


Read the Presidential address transcript:

“74 years after the end of the Second World War, we seem to have forgotten the lessons learned after millions of deaths and immeasurable suffering and destruction that have led to the longest period of peace in the history of Europe. Nationalism at state level, egotism of individuals dominate our everyday life. Social media, without disregarding its advantages, provides a platform for such developments, and loudness and aggression often triumph over reason and equilibrium. Healthcare, a fundamental human right throughout the world, is in many ways subordinate to economic interests.

“In times like these, can a scientific society play a role, even if it expressly adopts no political position? I think it can. The European Respiratory Society stands for science and education both in research and clinical practice. A meaningful discussion about the future can only be conducted if it is based on facts. Only the search for knowledge can help us to ask those questions for which we then try to find the answers. Without this pursuit of truth, there can be no progress. In medicine, progress is inextricably linked with benefit for the patient and the patient is at the centre of our actions.

“Science and medical practice are only possible and improvable if the foundations have been laid. Education is a must and is therefore an essential objective of a scientific society like the ERS. Education not only leads to knowledge, but it also provides the humanitarian basis that should be the foundation of our medical profession. This is the position that a European society must primarily convey. Social competence, the ability to communicate, willingness to compromise and the courage to publicly stand up for one’s own viewpoint are core tasks of a scientific society, that can become a model for social developments.

“The European Respiratory Society was founded 29 years ago out of just such motivation. It has continued to develop these values and bring them alive in its programme. And the ERS does this in close cooperation with its partner societies on other continents, with whom there is not only personal friendship but also consensus on the aims and actions for the benefit of patients with respiratory diseases.

“It has been a great honour for me to work together with all those who are part of the ERS, who every day contribute their time, labour and emotion for the ERS and its aims.

“On that note, I would like to wish you all a good meeting, hoping that you enjoy yourselves and share this enjoyment with others.”

- Prof. Tobias Welte
ERS President 2018-2019
Saturday 28 September, 2019 during the Opening Session of the ERS International Congress, Madrid