In 2022, the Foundation for Szeged (Szegedért Alapítvány) honoured citizens of the University of Szeged (SZTE) in all categories - on 15 March, the top prize was awarded to the world-famous biochemist Katalin Karikó, research professor at the University of Szeged, and the work of Prof. Dr. Lajos Kemény, dermatologist, Dr. Károly Szatmáry, astronomer and Mária Temesi, opera singer was also honoured.
In 2022, the Scientific Board of Trustees of the Foundation for Szeged awarded the Béla Szőkefalvi-Nagy Prize to Prof. Dr. Lajos Kemény, dermatologist, academician, professor at the Albert Szent-Györgyi Medical School, SZTE. The award was presented by Dr. László Vécsei, Chairman of the Scientific Board of Trustees.
- For the 33rd time, the Foundation for Szeged has awarded individuals who have excelled in shaping the spirit of the city, enriching its scientific, cultural, artistic and social life, preserving its values, and who have brought fame and appreciation to the city of Szeged and the University of Szeged. How did you feel on finding out that you had received the Foundation for Szeged award from your hometown?
- I have received many awards, and I was delighted for different reasons. But the Foundation for Szeged award is a recognition coming from the people of Szeged, which makes it special for me. Such a recognition proves that what I have done in the past decades as a doctor, researcher, teacher and human being has been worthwhile.
- From the experience you have gained over the past decades, what would you like to pass on to your students?
- What I would like to show and teach my sudents and colleagues alike is the importance of being up-to-date, listening to patients, empathising with them, understanding their way of thinking and their problems. These are the most important things for me as a doctor. Although I see research as a hobby, I also think it is important to make future generations aware of the excitement of gaining or creating new knowledge and skills. Of course, it is very satisfactory to be able to learn and apply what others have invented, discovered or created to cure patients, but there is a completely different kind of pleasure in inventing and creating something that no one else has thought of before. These moments always leave me with a special feeling.
- Do you have any hobbies that are not related to your profession?
- For me, research is that extra something. Of course, I like good films, exercise, family gatherings; these are the things that, in addition to my profession and my hobby, i.e. research, complete my everyday life and give me the opportunity to relax.
- Have you had to make sacrifices or ever give up this particular hobby for your family?
- I owe it to my family that I have been able to devote my time to my vocation as well as to my hobby. My wife has supported me in everything, while at the same time she provided a secure base for our children, so that they never lack anything. This way I have never had to face any particular sacrifices.
- What are you working on at the moment?
- Basic research is still focused on psoriasis, but my research group at the Hungarian Centre of Excellence for Molecular Medicine (HCEMM) is working on the memory of the uppermost layer of the skin, the epithelium, concerning previous inflammatory effects. In addition, other research closer to actual patient care investigates different cell therapies to find out how for example cells extracted from the adipose tissue can be used in patient care. This latter research has recently yielded new results.
- To what extent has the coronavirus epidemic changed people's attitude towards researchers?
- The work of researchers has become more valued in the past two years. Nevertheless, we have had to be very careful and prudent when communicating all the knowledge and understanding we have. In all cases, the responsibility was enormous and most often it went hand in hand with credibility. Indeed, during the pandemic, it became clear how much influence health professionals and researchers in various fields of research could have on decision-makers and the public alike by telling them what they thought and what they knew. It is essential that this responsibility is handled properly.
- Have people become more open to different kinds of research and to the practical application of its results?
- Yes. The coronavirus pandemic has drawn attention to the work of researchers, including basic research, which may take decades. As very little has been said about this in the media, some people were actually put off taking the vaccine as a result.
- How important is faith in research?
- Scientific results are not based on faith, but on solid evidence. But whether or not researchers believe that they can create something does play a big role. In patient care, however, faith is very important, because if patients believe that a certain medication or therapy will help them, it contributes to recovery.
- What is your most memorable experience of patient care over the past decades?
- I had a patient with a very severe case of psoriasis accompanied by arthritis. We treated him for many years, but we could not achieve more than temporary improvement. Unfortunately, the disease made his daily life so difficult that he was unable to work, live a full life and was declared disabled. However, around 2005, when biological drugs became available, an infusion therapy helped him to become completely symptom-free. The patient’s comment during a ward round "Dear Professor, you've played quite a nasty trick on me. Who is going to believe I'm disabled now?" – is still a fond memory for me.