Raffaele Canger

1938 - 2019

Prof. Raffaele Canger, the father of the Italian League against Epilepsy, passed away on March 18, 2019.

Born December 26, 1938, Prof. Canger graduated from Medical School at the Università degli Studi of Milano in 1963, where he completed his residency in Psychiatry. He worked with Prof. Dieter Janz in Heidelberg. After moving back to Italy in 1966, he was Assistant Professor and then Associate Professor of Clinical Neurophysiology at the University of Milan, dedicating his time to healthcare and research in epilepsy. He was among the first ones to question current therapeutic standards, where each patient was treated with standard combinations of medicines, and promoted monotherapy up to the highest tolerated doses.

His medical and scientific commitment paired with his dedication to the social aspects, fighting against the stigma of epilepsy. He served as the Secretary/Treasurer of the Italian League Against Epilepsy (LICE) that was founded in 1972, and was President of the LICE from 1990 to 1993. In 1974 he promoted the foundation of AICE (Italian Association Against Epilepsy). In 1997 he received the honor of “Ambassador for Epilepsy” from the International League Against Epilepsy. He served as vice President of the International Bureau for Epilepsy from 1985 to 1989. He founded the first journal of the Italian League Against Epilepsy, the “Bollettino”, serving as Director until 2009. He was called by the University of Milan in 1984 to direct the Centro Regionale Epilessia at San Paolo Hospital, where a team of epileptologists care for children and adults affected by epilepsy and perform research related to seizures. He realized many projects, always involving his students, post-docs, and colleagues. He always encouraged and never curbed.

In the 1980s Prof. Canger worked with Giuliano Avanzini and Franco Viani to create a network of Epilepsy Centers in Lombardia in Northern Italy, using a model of integrated medical, psychological, and social care. The network soon became a system of continuous education through an interactive model where everyone is a teacher and a student at the same time. Together with Giorgio Pardi, he created the first project for women with epilepsy in Italy, to support them and promote the best care during their pregnancies. He published seminal scientific articles in this field, as part of an international collaborative group including Giuliano Avanzini, Dina Battino, Dieter Janz, Eva and Frederick Anderman. He was one of the first supporters of Claudio Munari’s projects for Epilepsy Surgery, determined to find a cure for drug resistant epilepsies.

He had many friends among Italian and international epileptologists. He taught us that being loyal friends and colleagues does not necessarily mean to always be on the same page. He was very much appreciated by his patients, especially those who were able to get to know him better, as Raffaele could be a bit intense at times. He was a teacher and mentor for all of us and was the first one to establish Workshops on Epilepsy and Clinical Electroencephalography in 1989 in Gargnano on Garda Lake, with the aim of spreading knowledge, in Italy and in Germany, about these disciplines that are often neglected by academic studies. The workshops have continued to take place twice a year since then.

Prof. Canger was truly loved by all his students. He shared his love for life and for freedom, resulting in his unconventional manners at work and his choices that often diverged from the rules of Academic. Raffaele Canger was a teacher and a mentor for all of us at the Epilepsy Center of San Paolo Hospital in Milan, as he was for many other Italian neurologists.

He left a great human and professional void in our community.

Submitted by Prof. Maria Paola Canevini