George Higoumenakis (1895-1983), Dermatologist: The Tale of 'Higoumenakis Sign' in Congenital Syphilis and His Life Achievements
Analecta Historico Medica, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 133-137, 2008
Posted: 5 Apr 2009
Date Written: September 1, 2008
In the History of Medicine after 1800, few Greek doctors are known for their contribution to this science. Two very known are Venedict Adamantiades (Adamantiades-Beh¿et's disease) and George Papanicolaou (Pap smear). However, there is much more to be studied in the history of Greek Medicine and Greek doctors.
Under this scope, we intend to give the outline of the life and works of George Higoumenakis, which until now have not been mentioned in medical literature before. George Higoumenakis was a dermatologist from Greece and to him we owe the description of the "clavicle sign" (otherwise called Higoumenakis sign) in late congenital syphilis: unilateral thickening of the sternal end of the clavicle in patients with the disease.
Higoumenakis was born in the village Kastelli in 1895, which belongs to the prefecture of Heraklion in Crete, Greece. He graduated form the Medical School of the University of Athens in 1917 and left abroad to become a dermatologist - venereologist. He stayed abroad for four years, and received training in Paris, Berlin, Breslau and Vienna. Among his teachers were famous syphilologists, such as Gaston Milian in Paris, Josef Jadassohn in Breslau and Ernst Finger in Vienna.
He returned to Greece in 1924, with much energy to find a respectful position and obtain a doctorate by the University of Athens. To this ends, he managed to become a consultant at the University Hospital of Dermatology "Andreas Syggros". A special interested of his was congenital syphilis, as he had written a monograph on this disease in 1925. It was from the patients that he observed in hospital "Andreas Suggros", that Higoumenakis managed to describe the sign in 1927 in a Greek Journal, and later in a French and German journal.
Unfortunately, he conflicted with George Photinos, professor of Dermatology at the University of Athens and Director of Hospital "Andreas Syggros". These bad relations resulted in four continuous rejections of theses he submitted for a doctorate from 1925 till 1942. He obtained a doctorate from the University of Thessalonica in 1946.
Despite these setbacks, Higoumenakis became a director of the Dermatology Department at the hospital "Evaggelismos". During his tenure at this position from 1928 to 1938, he published significant essays on the "clavicle sign", leishmaniasis and gonorrhea.
From 1940 and after, Higoumenakis became interested in politics. He was a member of the City Council of Athens for several years and vice-President of the Greek Medical Council for over 10 years. The greatest achievement of his to become a Member of the Greek Parliament from 1964 till 1967, during which he became a Minister of Hygiene for a short period of time.
During his life, Higoumenakis tried to not to compromise with the injustices he may have noticed. As a result, Higoumenakis had conflicts with many doctors of his time, which was not very convenient. Nevertheless, he was persistent and did not give up at obstacles. He wrote 47 articles in English, French, and German articles and over 200 articles in Greek.
Keywords: History of Medicine, Higoumenakis sign, congenital syphilis
JEL Classification: B3
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation