We are physiotherapists, all direct pupils of Professor Karel Lewit, neurologist and rehabilitation specialist, with whom we have been collaborating for years. Each of us has her own practice, or teaches and has a group in a health center. We teach, organise talks, seminars, are active in various groups related to physiotherapy or psychosomatics. This work is our professional link, we have known each other for years. Nevertheless, we all met for the first time in the Lewit home in Dobřichovice in order to preserve his professional heritage,when he passed away on October 2014. It was donated to us by Lewit’s daughters, Anita, Jana and Clara-Helena in the hope that we would continue his work. During our subsequent meetings it became clear that we could not manage without a legal framework and financial backing. Thus in February 2016, the Karel Lewit Foundation Fund was created. As well as enjoying our everyday work, we found the additional joy of creating and presenting a field of medicine co-founded, studied and developed by Karel Lewit in his Prague School. Our initial enthusiasm was channeled first into the administration related to the creation and running of the foundation fund. We can now concentrate on the best way of developing physiotherapy based on functional thinking. Our aim is to generalise the examination and therapy of patients in a way that not only treats the consequences, but also seeks to understand the reasons for their problems ; this is not restricted only to their locomotor system. We call this a functional approach. We hope to convince professionals in physiotherapy, as well as in medicine in general, to adopt the functional approach. And we hope to improve communication between different specialities in medicine and to understand human beings as complex entities where body and soul are an indivisible whole, just like two sides af the same coin. Last, but not least, we need to inform the public about the importance of a functional approach ; for instance, by proposing an overview of non-invasive therapies of the locomotor system or by informing them about pain prevention.
Our aim is to promote a functional approach to thinking in medicine. For us, this type of thinking opens a number of possibilities that will allow patients, healthy people and medical staff to reinforce health. It helps us reveal functional relationships between different structures of the body. The body is a bit like a car. What is the point of polishing it if it does not work? Each of us has a unique body, family, work, friends, interests …. life. If something goes wrong, we expect medical personnel to repair it or help us repair it. Within the Karel Lewit Foundation Fund we insist on a functional approach, where the repair is tailored to each unique life. Our starting points are the discoveries of Professor Lewit who devoted his professional life to patients, students and research in the fields fo rehabilitation and neurology.
Karel Lewit, the son of Dr Egon and Heda Lewit, was born April 25th, 1916 in Ljubljana, where his father served in a hospital for infectious diseases during the first world war and later as a pediatrician in Prague. Karel Lewit finished secondary school in 1934 in Prague (Štěpánská street) and started medical studies. His studies were interrupted by timely emigration to Paris (13.3.1939), where he worked in Hôpital Bichat (Surgery Department of Professor Mondor).
Upon the declaration of war he joined the resistance abroad, becoming a medic in the 1st infantry division in Agde, France from October 1939. He took part in the battles in Seine-et-Loire and in July 1940 managed to cross to England. There he remained until September 1944, when his unit took part in the invasion of Normandy, taking part in the battle of Dunquerque in October 1944 and in the advance of the Allied Armies until the end of the war.
He was demobilised in July 1945 and immediately returned to the Medical Faculty to finish his degree. He received his doctorate in July 1946 and realised his dream – to work in the Neurology Clinic of Professor Henner. There he initially chose to concentrate on the spine, under Dr Cerny, and soon after on neuroradiology with Professor Jirout. He remained faithful to both these directions, which he related together, for the rest of his life.
In 1956 he presented a thesis on the movement of air during PEG. He had started experimenting with manual traction in 1948 and from 1951 he started manipulation therapy under the influence of techniques used in chiropractice. When he realised the importance of these techniques in rehabilitation he began teaching them and therefore moved, together with Professor Macek, to the neurological clinic in Prague 10, which then was the home of the Institute for Further Education. In 1954, together with Dr Obrda, he founded the Rehabilitation Society and subsequently the section for Manual Medicine (now the Myoskeletal Society). Since then he taught on a systematic basis, first manipulation techniques, later “Manual” and finally “Myoskeletal” medicine, as the discipline evolved its technical approaches towards functional pathologies of the locomotor system. The techniques used evolved as well, starting with the “old” chiropractice to osteopathy, to neuromuscular techniques and techniques involving soft tissues. Collaboration within the team of Lewit, Janda, Véle and Jirout played a major role. Between them they developed what became internationally known as the Prague School. Thus Professor Lewit frequently gave courses in the GDR, Bulgaria, Poland and later in the USSR, where he taught groups of future teachers. He wrote a textbook which became his doctoral thesis (it was re-edited 4 times). It gradually became an international textbook and was translated into German (7 editions), English (3 editions), Japanese and Spanish. In 1968 he was put forward as full professor, but was not nominated until 1990.
After the events of August 1968 he had to leave the clinic but he found a temporary position in the Institute for Rhumatology, where he managed to organise the very successful Prague congress of FIMM in 1974, under very difficult circumstances. In 1976 he decided to retire but continued to work quietly in the Railway Health Centre until 1992, where his working conditions improved. After 1989 he also worked on several occasions in Třebon, where he took part in the founding of a centre for functional therapy. The privatised sanatorium Aurora thus organised courses and seminars, inviting not just Lewit, but also his daughter Helena-Clara, Dr Vojta, Dr Véle and Dr Brügger.
In 1994 he returned to the Neurological Clinic in Vinohrady; from 1996 to 2012 he worked in the Rehabilitaion Clinic of Charles University in Motol and from 2008 in the CKP in Dobřichovice. He continued to give lectures and courses, and between 1991 and 2001 trained an entire team of instructors here and in Slovakia. He continued to publish – altogether over 200 publications, most recently on the chains of functional problems. In the summer of 2012 he stopped consultations of Neurological and myoskeletal medicine and became, in his own words, a “professional pensioner”. In the autumn of 2013 he was present at the celebration of 10 years of the Centre for Complex Therapy in Dobřichovice, which took place in the Dobřichovice castle. Here he was warmly thanked by the owner of the CKP, Dr Dana Jenšovská. He was happy to come and to recall memories at a panel that showed his career, as well as interesting photographs from his life. He died quietly at home on Thursday, 2nd October 2014. He was 98 years old.
After the end of secondary school in Prague, Clara-Helena followed a two-year degree in the training school for physiotherapists in Prague, where she qualified in 1972.
Her first employment was in the neurology clinic in Vinohrady, Prague, in the emergency department for spine injuries, under her father, Karel Lewit (1972-1974). When Karel Lewit was obliged to change emplyment and joined the Rhumatology Institute in Albertov, she followed him. During this period she started to take part in courses as his assistant (1974-1976). Then she was unexpectedly moved to another workplace and left the institute. She started working with Hucul horses on a farm in Zmrzlik, on the outskirts of Prague. Her father helped her to take a course in hippotherapy in the GDR, her mother helped for a course in the UK. For a while she experimented the treatment of migraines by horse-riding (1976-1978). Dr Edita Wolfová invited her to introduce hippotherapy in the Rhumatology Institute in Chuchelná, north Moravia. She went there with a few mares from the Hucul club. She worked in the neurology rehabilitation and in the afternoons she treated selected patients with hippotherapy (1978-1980).
After marrying Jiří Hermach in 1980 she moved to the Centre for treating children, Department of Scoliosis, in Luže-Košumberk. Together with Dr Kulhavý she started developing a change in the treatment of scoliosis using functional therapy. She continued assisting her father in courses, followed a course on rehabilitation of locomotory stereotypes of peolpe with light brain damage, given by Dr Janda (1980-1982). For a short while she worked in the Mšené spa, where Dr Tutzký was introducing a new programme of rehabilitation of patients with spine problems, taught by a colleague.
In December 1983 she left Czechoslovakia. After several months in France she received an offer to work in the neurology clinic of the university hospital in Innsbruck, Austria. There she worked for Dr Berger, a pupil of Karel Lewit, whom she knew already from Prague. She also gave courses in a physiotherapy school, taught other colleagues, as well as following courses herself (Bobath’s method for adults, Applied kinesiology etc) (1984-1988).
In 1988 she opened her own practice and started teaching her own courses, which she based on what she had learnt from Lewit, Janda and Véle. She also enlarged her own clinical experience, inspired by Feldenkreis, Affolter, Perfetti, Čumpelík, Applied kinesiology etc.
In 1991 she moved closer to the Czech border, to Gmünd and, as well as her own work, started teaching in the Czech Republic. Initially it was the UNIFY (physiotherapy union) that organised these courses. In 1991-1995 she opened a small outpatient consultation for children (0-5 years old) in Zwettl; she also taught in the na Akademie fűr Physiotherapie in Horn.
In 2001 she started teaching in the Hájenka in South Bohemia.
Today she teaches in the Czech Republic, mainly future teachers. The cycle of courses is composed of four parts: Form-Function-Facilitaion; Motion and stability; Inner spaces and breath; TAPE.