The History of San Servolo

The history of San Servolo and the International School of Neurological Sciences

San Servolo is an island in the Venetian Lagoon. Historical documents show that there was a Benedictine monastery on the island as early as the 8th century. The religious complex remained open until the 17th century. In the early 1700's, San Servolo was designated as the site of the military hospital of the Venetian Republic to cure soldiers harmed during continuous conflicts with the Ottoman Empire. Soldiers and sailors who were the source of the Republic's strength in the battles for commercial and political sovereignty, were looked after by the Friars of the order of St. John of God. In 1725, a mentally deranged nobleman was admitted to this military hospital and thus began the function of San Servolo as an
asylum for noblemen with mental disorders. While some of these patients suffered from serious psychiatric problems, others were confined there only because they were deemed socially undesirable. By 1800, mental patients of every social class were admitted to San Servolo, which then became the psychiatric hospital for the Veneto Region. Women were accepted from 1804-1834, after which they were treated in
the hospital of S. Clemente on a nearby island.

In 1978, Government-instituted reforms of psychiatric treatment resulted in the closure of the hospital. The next year, the Venice Government established on the island the "Istituto per le Ricerche e gli Studi sull┬┤Emarginazione Sociale e Culturale" (Institute for the Study of Social and Cultural Marginalization) to preserve the documents associated with the history of the psychiatric hospital. Recently, San Servolo has started hosting an annual international artist residency and has become the site for exhibitions, festivals and performances.

The Venice International University (VIU) currently operates at San Servolo premises. VIU is a center for research and education and a collaboration among ten universities from around the world, was formed on San Servolo in 1995. Venice International University is something unique in the academic world: a group of Universities from all over the world share a common campus on this island in the Venice lagoon. These Universities collegially devise study programs to prepare their students to face the global challenges of today: sustainable development; climate change; ageing; urban growth; global ethics; cultural heritage...

These global issues require a new kind of academic preparation. Students who choose to spend a term studying at VIU are taught to move across disciplines and through cultures with a flexibility of approach, an open mind and creative thinking.

The International School of Neurological Sciences in Venice (ISNV) was founded in 1990, at the beginning of the "Brain Decade", and is one of the founding members of VIU. It is ISNV's aim to provide health professionals with the opportunity to improve their skills in the Neurological

Sciences by organizing courses conducted by leading international experts in specific fields. In addition, ISNV is always ready to host meetings, workshops and round-tables. Since 2002, the ISNV has been organizing and hosting Advanced International Summer Courses on various aspects of epilepsy, with the support of ILAE.

Why an Advanced Summer Course on Bridging Basic and Clinical Epileptology? There is an increasing need to train young clinicians and research/clinical scientists to understand what epilepsy is and what are the most relevant neurobiological and clinical questions in epilepsy research. The main objective of the Advanced Course Bridging Basic with Clinical Epileptology is to provide the critical competence necessary
to design, write and conduct an effective research project/activity in the field of epileptology.

The Course instructs attendees to acquire basic knowledge in the pathophysiology of epilepsies, to understand the clinical aspects of epilepsies, to gain from the mutual exchange of information between basic scientists and clinicians and to critically evaluate the literature. The Course is addressed to neuroscientists and neurologists with a documented background in epilepsy research. Lectures on general and specific topics
are interspersed with interactive seminars, workshops, and breakout sessions where small groups of attendees and faculty are involved in tutorials. Didactic material and dedicated equipment for consultation will be available for students under the supervision of the tutors. Final goal of the Course is the preparation of a research project on a subject decided and assigned by the Course Directors. Groups of 6-8 students are
formed at the beginning of the Course. Each group develops a research project under the supervision of 2 tutors.

The progress of the project is monitored daily during group discussions with tutors. Research projects are collectively discussed and evaluated the last day of the Course. Several training activities have been developed during the last 10 years, some of which have been supported in recent years by ILAE Commissions. The uniqueness of the type of training traditionally offered during the San Servolo Courses has not been duplicated by such training events, for three main reasons: first, San Servolo School organization selects students professionals with diverse backgrounds, extending from surgeons to basic scientist; second, the School has granted over 15 years of activity more than 408 fellowship to allow scientists and clinicians from Countries in East Europe, Africa, Middle-Fat East, Latin America; third, the Course is based on the development of a research project under the tutorship of topscientsts/clinicians. This format has a unique didactic power that is still unmet in the context of international epilepsy training.

For these reasons the San Servolo School Advanced Course on Bridging Basic with Clinical Epileptology maintain a large niche in the educational needs of the epilepsy community in all 5 Continents. This is supported by the high percentage of Course students that progressed and developed an independent carrier in Epilepsy, that emerges from a preliminary survey promoted by the San Servolo School in 2014 (see above). This is a clear indication that top-epilepsy scientists select the San Servolo Course as a primary educational event, and also suggest that the Course contributed and reinforced the motivation of attendants to pursue a successful career in clinical and experimental epilepsy.

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