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Stefania Jabłońska

JABŁOŃSKA, Stefania (September 7, 1920, Mogilev - May 8, 2017, Warsaw), dermatologist, explorer, one of the most cited Polish clinicians in the world.

Her curriculum vitae contains some uncertainties, the formation of which was contributed by J. herself, providing divergent data in the documents. She was born as Rachela (diminutive ‘Szela’) Ginzburg in Mogilev (although in some of her biographies she mentions Warsaw as her place of birth). The father, Emil Ginzburg, was an economist, and her mother, Bella Ginsburg (in some of her biographies J. says that her mother’s surname was Krasucka), was a doctor specialising in skin diseases. The Ginzburgs also had an older daughter named Estera, later known as Irena Hausman. In 1926, the family settled in Warsaw, where Rachela was enrolled in the girls' school of the Gymnasium and secondary School of the Teachers' Association, from which she graduated from in 1937, taking the secondary school examination. The following year she started studies at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Warsaw, interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. At the end of September 1939, both sisters were sent by their parents to Lviv, which was occupied by the Soviet army, where they began their studies at the end of October. Her parents, who were under German occupation, did not survive the war. Rachela first studied at the Medical Faculty of the University of Jan Kazimierz, soon transformed into the Medical Institute, passing subsequent exams, invariably with the highest marks. In the summer of 1941, after the outbreak of the German-Soviet war, she left Lviv and evacuated to the east. She continued her studies first in Kharkiv, then in Frunze (now: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan). She got her diploma in the fall of 1942. Until the spring of 1943 she worked as a general practitioner in and around Frunze. In May 1943 she joined the ranks of the Red Army. According to her own account, she served as a captain-doctor at the headquarters of the South-Western Front, the 3rd Ukrainian Front, and with the independent 67th battalion for special tasks (probably the NKVD army). Demobilised in November 1945, she settled in Leningrad. There she completed an internship at the Department of Skin Pathophysiology of the Academy of Medical Sciences of the USSR under the supervision of an outstanding dermatologist, Olga Nikołajewna Podwysocka. In June 1946, as a repatriate J. returned to Warsaw. It was most likely then that she decided to use the surname Jabłońska and the name Stefania, which was officially confirmed in 1947. At the same time, first as a volunteer, then as an assistant (1947) and senior assistant (1948–50), she started working in the dermatology clinic of Professor Marian Grzybowski. In 1947–49 she worked in the prison health service of the Ministry of Public Security as a contract doctor. Her workplace was the Mokotów prison. In 1949 she went on a research scholarship to the USA. In November that year, under unclear circumstances, Professor Grzybowski was arrested and he soon died during the investigation. After several months of vacancy, from September 1950, the clinic was managed by J., who did not have a doctoral degree at that time. She was promoted to the medical faculty of the University of Warsaw only in December 1950. In 1951 she received veniam legendi on the basis of her defence of Skin Reactivity in Tuberculosis and Sarcoidosis. In 1952 she obtained the position of an associate professor at the University of Warsaw, and in 1954 she was awarded an associate professorship and in 1976 a full professorship. She retired in 1990. She was buried at the Powązki Military Cemetery in Warsaw.

The most important scientific achievements of J. include the detection of and description of oncogenic human papillomaviruses along with the indication that Lewandowsky-Lutz dysplasia (Epidermodysplasia verruciformis), a rare, genetically determined skin disease that leads to the development of tumours, can only develop under conditions of HPV infection. It was the first complete model for the initiation and development of viral skin cancers. In 1978, J. and G. Orth discovered the HPV-5 virus at the Pasteur Institute. A separate issue of research with the participation of J. was autoimmune diseases from the group of collagen diseases, the analysis of which allowed the characterisation the subtypes of scleroderma as well as to indicate the existence of several pseudo-scleroderma. She was the first to prove that the aetiology of psoriasis should be associated with autoimmune factors. In her work team, for many years she dealt with the diagnostics of bladder diseases. During those years, it was possible to distinguish, among others, new variants of IgA pemphigus.

J. was the author or co-author of a number of monographs and textbooks, published both in Poland and abroad. Her name appears in a total of over 800 original publications, not counting reports and conference summaries. She is one of the most cited Polish doctors in the medical literature in the world. She was a supervisor of 69 doctoral dissertations, a tutor in 24 habilitation dissertations, and a total of 15 professors were produced by her school.

J. was a Member of the Polish Academy of Sciences. In 1862–82 and 1987–95 she chaired the Polish Dermatological Society. She was a permanent and honorary member of nearly 50 foreign dermatological societies, including all the most prestigious ones. J. was also a winner of many awards, and was decorated, e.g., with the Robert Koch Medal (1985) and the Gold Medal of Marchionini (1992).


Współcześni uczeni polscy. Słownik biograficzny, ed. J. Kapuścik, vol. 2, Warsaw 1999, pp. 107; M. Wroński: Zagadka śmierci Profesora Mariana Grzybowskiego, Warsaw 2004; E. J. Kucharz: In memoriam Professor Stephanie Jablonska ‘Journal of Scleroderma and Related Disorders’ 2018, R. 3 z. 1, pp. 3–5 https://doi.org/10.1177/2397198318755211; M. Potočnik: In Memoriam: Stefania Jabłońska, 1920–2017, ‘Acta Dermatovenerologica Alpina, Pannonica et Adriatica’ 2017, vol. 26, pp. 121 doi: 10.15570/actaapa.2017.35; L. Rudnicka: Profesor Stefania Jabłońska we wspomnieniach, ‘Dermatological Review’ 2017, 104, 235–238; N. Staford: Stefania Jablonska ‘British Medical Journal’ 2017, vol. 357 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j2891; Files concerning the murder of Professor Marian Grzybowski – IPN file no. BU 2188/641 and IPN BU 2188/643 (including a copy of the MBP's personal files regarding Stefania Jabłońska).

Michał CHlipała, Ryszard W. Gryglewski

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