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Informații şi înregistrări: vezi primul anunț 


Autor: Constantin Lupu Sanda Măgureanu Ana Murguleţ
Distribuie pe:

Florica Bagdasar


Dr. Florica Bagdasar was a major figure both in the history of our country and in medicine, as the founder of specialties such as Mental Health and Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry in Romania.


The year 2011 marks 110 years since the birth of the one who was the first woman minister in our country and theonly woman who represented Romania at the end of the World War II in the delegation to the 1946 Peace Conference in Paris. This material is a Requiem, a remembrance of our devoted forerunner.

She was born in a family of Macedonian-Romanian origin, in the village Monastiu Bitola in Macedonia on the 24th of January, 1901. Her father, Sterie Ciumetti, used to have a motto: “Oh God, man is so handsome when mind is his queen. “Her mother diedearly, and Florica took over the role of parent – she became “loco parentis” for her brothers and sisters.

She attended primary school in Bitola, and then the family moved to Iasi and Roman. She went to study Medicine at the Bucharest Faculty between 1919 -1925.

From her diary, we find out that as first year student in Medicine she met Bagdasar Dumitru, a student in Military Medicine: “We have known each other since the first years of college and I was attracted by the nice way he used to laugh. Since our first date, we have managed to establish a friendship that was to last: love was born.”

After graduation, Dr. Florica Ciumetti worked first as an extern physician then as an intern at hos-pitals belonging to Brancoveanu Foundation from Bucharest. In 1927, she married the surgeon Bagdasar Dumitru, a gentle and tenacious young man, who was born in Roşieşti, Fălciu County, who was 8 years older than she was. They made up a legendary couple in Romania: two bright minds who joined their forces for the welfare of their country, two pure hearts, who lived for a Iove that surpassed death. Her husband was a surgeon and neurologist trained at Professor Gheor-ghe Marinescu’s and Dr. D. Noica’s School. Instead of a wedding trip, the husband, who wanted to become a neurosurgeon, offered her a study trip to USA where he had obtained a specialization grant in Boston to work with Harvey Cushing – the founder of modern neurosurgery, becoming his maşter’s favourite student and collaborator.

Dr. Florica Bagdasar turned to a new specialty in the USA: child health care and neuro-psychic pathol-ogy. The Bagdasar spouses’ studies and specialization in Boston were marked by severe material conditions, since they had to rely only on the resources from the respective scholarship. Due to daily overwork, both spouses got sick ofTB. Under the protection of Harvey Cushing (1869-1939) they went for treatment to Trudeau Sanatorium in Saranac, in the north of New York State. The time spent in this sanatorium was a kind of forced holiday and even a substitute for the wedding voyage. Bagdasar spouses were hospitalised on different fioors but “they communicated by Iove notes.”

During the Boston specialisation period, 1927 -1929, in 1928, Dr. Florica Bagdasar was awarded a Rockefeller scholarship, which is usually granted to men, but this exception was in recognition of her merits and of her genuine interest for study. Thus, she could study at Harvard University – The School of Public Health, completing her specialization in child neuropsychiatry, sensing the value of this multidis-ciplinary specialty: medical, psycho-pedagogical and social and her interest and studies became her profes-sion. She devoted her efforts to become acquainted with institutions for protection and recovery, with the medical and social care system for children with neuro-psychiatric problems and with issues of mental health of the population.

At the end of their specialization studies, in 1929, the Bagdasars had offers for jobs in the USA, but, with a “strong feeling for their native country”, they considered that it was their duty to return to Romania and to put into practice the experience and knowl-edge gained abroad. On return, they went through the “purgatory” in Jimbolia, Timis-Torontal County, where they were welcomed, but the neuropsychiatry hospital in that town was lacking adequate facilities. However, Dr. Dumitru Bagdasar could perform the first neurosurgery operations in quite modest conditions. His wife and hospital staff always assisted him.

Dr. Florica Bagdasar was appointed head of the department, which she called “Neuropsychiatry Department”, where 150 chronically ill patients and 80 children were hospitalized whom she took care of to treat and recover. After two years in Jimbolia, the Bagdasar couple moved to Cernăuţi where they orga-nized the neurosurgery service, which became famous all over the country.

In 1933, they came to Bucharest, where Dr. D. Bagdasar started to perform neurosurgery operations in different hospitals, and, in 1935, he organized the first neurosurgery clinic in our country at the Central Hospital (today the “Al. Obregia” Hospital.). Since coming to Bucharest, a stable friendship started with the family of Prof. Ion T. Niculescu, our great neuro-histologist. The friendship of those families was nice and it was transmitted to their children, too.

For the early operations at the neurosurgery clinic, of Prof. Dr. D. Bagdasar worked with Dr. Ma-ria Niculescu, the neurohistologist professor’s wife. In Bucharest, Dr. Florica Bagdasar established the “Mental Health Centre for Children” in Vasile Lascăr Street. There, she collaborated with a special team made up of: Dr. V. Voiculescu, Dr. E. Pamfil (the fu-ture professors) Dr.Măescu, I. Calavrezo, the speech therapist, Dr. Toncescu and especially with the psy-cho-pedagogue Florica Niculescu. Dr. Florica Bagdasar established this institution, which was a premiere in Romania, in 1946 and therefore we are among the first in Europe in this field, but with origins in the USA. We must mention that such institutions were founded in Europe by French or German inspiration. The efforts at the Centre of V. Lascăr Street were dedicated to the health care and recovery of children suffering from neuro-psychiatric diseases.

Dr. Florica Bagdasar also formalized the specialty of child neuropsychiatry in medical higher education, becoming the first associate professor in our country in the specialty of the psychology of the normal and pathological child, at the Bucharest Institute of Med-icine and Pharmacy, the Faculty of Paediatrics since the 1949/1950 academic year.

Between 1945 and 1946, the neurosurgeon pro-fessor Dumitru Bagdasar was appointed Minister of Health and he dedicated himself to the exhausting work of organizing the health network in Romania after the war. He was a visionary and democratic egalitarian specialized in surgery. From the very be-ginning, he fought a battle in order to establish the neurosurgery in Romania – and his wife supported him both in life and during the operations. After suc-cessful operations, Florica Bagdasar used to joke with her husband and ask him “Do you think King Hades will get angry that you have stolen one of his sub-jects?”The Bagdasar couple adopted the utopian ideas of the left, thinking that by their adhesion they might be allowed to change people’s lives for the better, but the professor was severely affected by pulmonary cancer and died in the summer of 1946 in the family home from Breaza. As a member of the Government, he had official funeral ceremony. The Government, based on the family reputation, further appointed Dr. Florica Bagdasar as Minister of Health. Continuing her husband’s work, Dr. Florica Bagdasar was from Minister of Health from September 1946 to August 1948.

At her investiture with office, Florica Bagdasar was received by King Mihai who confirmed her as Minister.


Florica Bagdasar



She was also a Tulcea deputy on behalf of PNP (People’s National Party) between 1946 and 1951. In the Chamber of Deputies, she used to sit next to the famous literary critic George Călinescu. While Minister of Health, Florica Bagdasar had led a desperate struggle with the epidemics and hunger that haunted the country. Unfortunately, she had to fight with other kind of difficulties, too. For instance, the International Red Cross delegates who came to help Romania would be teased by the members of the communist regime in different ways: they were not granted entrance visa, or were arrested and detained on imaginary charges, the labels on food and medi-cine packages were altered (USA was replaced with the USSR). She had to struggle with the profiteers who embezzled the Health Ministry financial re-sources, with the absurd secrecy of the various “or-gans”, with the lack of staff decimated in the war, etc. After participating in the Paris Peace Conference in September 1946 Dr. Florica Bagdasar went to Stock-holm on an official journey to ask for support. The Swedes responded generously, as well as other Western European countries. The Swedish Red Cross and Radda Barnen (Save the Children) Organisation had fed the needy children for two years in the so-called “Swedish canteens.”

As Tulcea Deputy, she initiated and supported the campaign to eradicate malaria in Romania. We know of other humanitarian activities she had done in order to help the starving population. In the 1946/1947 winter and the 1947 summer, starvation in Moldova became catastrophic. Dr. Florica Bagdasar asked the approval of the Soviet communist authorities to solicit American support. The answer she had received was: “we will not humble in the face of Americans and our great Soviet friends, cannot help us.” However, she did not give in and insisted.The story of her efforts to obtain the approval was told to her daughter as being the most dramatic during her period as Minister of Health, but, finally, she managed to receive permis-sion to appeal to the U.S. government. Then, the U.S. embassy and the military representative urged their government to donate food to Romania. President Truman ordered that U.S. ships in the Mediterranean carry 4.500 tons of military rations and 2.500 tons of beans to the Constanta port as a donation for the starving population of Moldova. To this great humanitarian gesture, other personalities had contributed too: Fred Sigerist, the American Red Cross envoy to Romania, Mihai Ralea, the Romanian Ambassador to Washington, the great musician George Enescu, with his concerts, the appeal of Romania’s Chief Rabbi Dr. Alexandru Safran. The distribution of food was car-ried out quickly, that is, in 12 days; therefore, it was considered a success of both American Red Cross and of Romanian Red Cross. Nevertheless, Stalin refused strongly the Marshall Plan initiated in 1947 to revive Europe after the war. – as a consequence, 45 years fol-lowed, bringing robbery, poverty and dictatorship to our country.

In 1948, a new shocking event occurred in Dr. Florica Bagdasar’s life: she learned from a newscast that she had been relieved of her position as Minister of Health. This situation (which was typical of the communist regime) allowed her to work at the children’s centre founded in 1946, where she had a working respite of 2-3 years. There she devoted her-self to child neuropsychiatry, in conformity with the concept “for the disinherited as much attention and affection as possible”.

So far, we managed to reconstruct aspects of Dr. Florica Bagdasar’ the personality from descriptions offered over the years by Prof. E. Pamfil, Prof. Sanda Măgureanu, writer Saul Bellow, Dr. Ana Murgulet. Other sources consisted of a few articles published in Romania, as well as the correspondence with Mrs. Alexandra Bellow-Bagdasar. We also completed and clarified aspects of chronology and of the existing informaticul sources.

We want to thank all the people mentioned above in our names and on behalf of our readers. I understand that Dr. Florica Bagdasar was diligent, a noble person who knew how to command respect, who could col-laborate and take useful decisions. Saul Bellow, Nobel Prize laureate in 1976, has characterized her in the novei “The Dean’s December”, written on his coming to Bucharest with his wife, Alexandra, in 1978: “Her ancestors had not been landowners… Originally, she was a communist, but she could not give up her man-ners of a true lady” and “her personal humanity came from immemorial sources”. She used to have an austere and elegant appearance: neat hairstyle, a white blouse and a black skirt. She would impress by her noble modesty, imposing respect. These descriptions help us to portray her in our imagination.

After the establishment of the Children’s Centre she gave her colleagues an outstanding novelty: the alphabet “Floba”, which she designed together with psychologist Florica Niculescu for children in primary school as well as the guide for left-handed children, who then were forced to use only their right hand, (because the left hand was tied). After the is-sue of “The Primer for all Children” in 1947, its ban followed together with the ban of the magazine “Our Child” developed by the staff of the Centre in “V. Lascăr” Street.

This institution contributed to the training of spe-cialists in neurologica! deficits and mental disorders in children and to establishing correct diagnoses in this field. Also in collaboration with the psychologist Florica Niculescu, Dr. Florica Bagdasar wrote “Arith-metic for Children”. These two textbooks were inno-vative creations appealing to calligraphy, to images that accompanied the letters and words and consti-tuted writing guides to help the acquisition of vertical (not tilted) letters. By the initiative of two “Flowers”, (the name “Florica” means in Romanian “flower”), the use of the pencil and notebook was introduced in schools instead of the sandstone slate and pen. These books and methods have been appreciated even by the Russian inspector from the Ministry of Education, but were banned in schools, being considered decadent ways, and the authors accused of “imperialism by pedagogy.” Mrs. Florica Niculescu was arrested and imprisoned for two years, without of arrest warrant, without being judged, without conviction sentence and with interdiction to practice her profession for 10 years. She turned 100 years on October 7,2010 when Alexandra, the daughter of Dr. Florica Bagdasar, vis-ited her, having come from the U.S.A. especially for this meeting. Dr. Florica Bagdasar and psychologist Florica Niculescu had been accused that they had invented handicapped children, which in Romania could not exist because socialism was being built.

On the background of existing envy from unwor-thy characters, the denigration campaign against Dr. Florica Bagdasar continued. More and more frequent political “anti-imperialist” accusations were formu-lated culminating with the publication of a large ar-ticle in the 18 January 1953 issue of “Scânteia”, the central communist newspaper. There were just two months before Stalin’s death, and, in that newspaper article, charges against Dr. Florica Bagdasar abound-ed in very strong negative terms. She was described as being a cosmopolite and a vassal to the American imperialism, and accused that she denied her people’s struggle to build socialism. She was immediately investigated and excluded from her public functions and from the party. AII of a sudden, this active and intelligent lady saw herself expelled and abandoned, free of service, free of any income and repudiated everywhere. Due to hitherto hard work and to new difficult material conditions, the pulmonary disease, which she had contracted in the USA, reactivated. She was hospitalised at the Hospital for Lung Dis-eases with lung abscess. The renowned lung surgeon, Dr. Carpinişan treated and operated her. Out of the surgery room, he said in tears: “I have done everything was in my power, the rest is in God’s hands”. Mrs. Florica Bagdasar recovered miraculously. The recov-ery took a couple of years.

In 1956, the wave of Stalinist terror having passed and with Khrushchev initiating some political relax-ation, a few rays of light brightened Dr. Florica Bagdasar, too. In 1957, she was “rehabilitated” politically and was appointed vice-president of the Romanian Red Cross. In the same year, she went to the USA with her daughter Alexandra and obtained American citizenship for her as a means of protection from the injustice of the political regime in Romania.

Retirement followed and she went to live together with her sister in Bucharest. In 1978, she fell severely ill and her daughter was called from New York where she was a celebrated Mathematics and Astronomy university professor.The daughter came with her hus-band, the writer Saul Bellow, Nobel Prise laureate in 1976. The mother was hospitalised at Elias Hospital, in Bucharest, fallen into a coma, and she died on 19 December 1978. The incineration funeral was at-tended by daughter Alexandra with her husband Saul Bellow and by many acquaintances, while the ashes were buried with Christian ceremony in the “Sfânta Vineri” Cemetery, next to her husband. Today, there is a commemorative plate on the building at number 13, Speranţei street, (Sector 2, Bucharest) where the Bagdasar couple used to live.

After the Bagdasar spouses have left us, years have passed but the medical specialties they founded still survive. In their memory, we have the ‘Bagdasar-Arseni” Neurosurgery Clinic in Bucharest and the pioneering work of the Neuropsychiatry Centre for Children in”Vasile Lascăr” Street in Bucharest, where the medical specialties founded by Dr. Florica Bagdasar were born. We also commemorate the Bagdasar couple’s work as Ministers of Health in those difficult years following the end of World War II.After the tumultuous beginnings of the child neuropsychiatry specialty, new series of professio-nals were trained in all major centres of our country. Hospitals and university clinics have been established in Bucharest, Cluj, Iasi,Timişoara. Her followers, set-ting up tradition, continue what Dr. Florica Bagdasar had founded: the teamwork of coordinated by specialist physicians in conjunction with the psycholo-gist, speech therapist, sociologist, kinesiotherapist, psycho-pedagogue and psychotherapist. If, during the communist period there was only one medical society that controlled alone all the congresses and confe-rences on different specialties, after the fall of the communist regime, The Romanian Society of Child and Adolescent Neurology and Psychiatry and of As-sociate Professions (RSCANP) was established on January 30,1990.

This association was the first medical society born in our country after the Revolution. The professional meetings, conferences, communication sessions con-tinued and finally they turned into the annual Con-gress.The RSCANP became the professional guaran-tor for the Medical staff belonging to the Network of Neuropsychiatry and of Associate Professions, being an active and independent society.

Many other details might be written about Dr. Florica Bagdasar’s life and activity, but the main aim of this Requiem is to honour her as the founder of medical specialties devoted to mental health and to Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry in our country.


For the materials used in this article we thank those who gave us data and details about the life and personality of Dr. Florica Bagdasar – the founder of Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry in Romania: Prof. Eduard Pamfil, Prof. Sanda Măgureanu, Dr. Ana Murgulet, The Department of National Archives of History and Culture in Bucharest. In particular, we are indebted to Mrs. Alexandra Bagdasar – Bellow for the specification of essential data and her goodwill to correspond with us in order to finalize the present material.



  1. ŞtefanMargareta-1976:”Laboratorulde Sănătate Mintală, concepţie şi experienţă” Comunicare la Consfătuirea de NPI Timişoara
  2. Cortez Paul – 1979: “Dr. Florica Bagdasar (1901-1978)” Rev.Neur.Psih.Neurochir. 24(149-150)
  3. Milea Şt. Costiner E. – 1979: “Istoria Pedopsihiatriei în România” Rev.Neur.Neorochir. 34(107-111)
  4. Saul Bellow -1982: “The Dean’s December”(Iarna Decanului) The Estate of S. Bellow. NY- USA
  5. Măgureanu Sanda – 1989: “Florica Bagdasar promotor al neuropsihiatriei infantile în ţara noastră” Rev.Neur.Psih. Neurochir. 3(232-233)
  6. Milea St. – 1989: “Cenrtul de neuropsihiatrie pediatrică” Rev.Neur.Psih.Neurochir 4(186-188)
  7. Lupu C. – 2010: “20 Years since the foundation of the Rou-manian Society of Child and Adolescent of Neurology andPsychiatry and allied profesions”Juorn.of Romanian Child. Adol. Neur. Pshich. Voi 13/1 (110-113)
  8. Revista 22 /25.08.2004: Alexandra Bellow-‘Asclepios ver-sus Hades in Romania 1″
  9. Revista 22 /Ol.09.2004: Alexandra Bellow-‘Asclepios ver-sus Hades in Romania II”
  10. Dileme Veche nr. 7/2004: Negru Val. – “Text sub un portret anonim”
  11. Viaţa Medicală nr. 23/2004:Alice Ţuculescu-‘Generoz-itatea care schimbă faţa lumii”
  12. Jurnal-ro – 9 dec. 2005: Anghel C. Ştirbu M.: “Dumitru Bagdasar fondatorul neurochirurgiei din România”
  13. Revista 22/21 dec. 2010: extrase “Arestarea abecedarului -amintirile psiholog Florica Niculescu”
  14. Revista 22/21 dec. 2010: Ileana Costea, Doina Tetcu: ” Secretul longevităţii: Florica Niculescu la 100 ani”.