“The landmark date of March 4, 2020 will not be forgotten for a long time. It was the date when the first two COVID-19 patients in Hungary were diagnosed, one of whom was a student at our university. In the period since then, thousands of Semmelweis University citizens have been involved day by day in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, which we have been at the forefront of from the very first moment”, said Dr. Béla Merkely in his opening speech, adding that the institution has taken responsibility for its students, patients and country in a manner befitting its 250-year history. The rector pointed out that the university established its Epidemiology Committee at the beginning of the epidemic situation, and also played a major role at national level with, among other things, the Clinical Epidemic Analysis Working Group, which he chaired and which brings together four medical universities, renowned clinicians and infectologists, and with the national, representative coronavirus screening study H-UNCOVER, which was a key element in Hungary’s defense against the virus. The institution was the first to provide free PCR tests for its citizens, was among the first to administer the coronavirus vaccine to clinical staff on December 26, 2020, and the vaccination of pregnant women was also started here at Semmelweis University, he pointed out.
“The citizens of Semmelweis University have administered 377,000 vaccinations to date. In terms of patient care, the university has become one of the largest designated COVID-19 sites in the country. In one year, we have treated more than 6,000 inpatients and 6,000 outpatients with COVID. At one time, we had 720 COVID patients in our clinics, more than 120 of them in intensive care,” he said, highlighting the state-of-the-art techniques used in patient care, student volunteering and the institution’s scientific and outreach work on coronavirus.
When I saw that we had overcome the third wave, I began to take stock of who we should thank most for their sacrifice. Among our staff alone, I counted up to 4,000, and among our students, an equal number, so 8,000 in total receive the Semmelweis Hero award at our university. But thanks also go to everyone else who has been involved in the fight against the virus
– said Dr. Béla Merkely, adding that unprecedented cooperation and collaboration developed during the pandemic response at the University, from students to residents, doctors, specialists, lecturers and support staff, everyone was ready to give the best of their talents, time and effort. “The pandemic came at a very important and historic time for us, the 250th anniversary of our university. At the same time, I believe that in this extraordinary situation, we could not have paid tribute to our past in a more dignified way than through the commitment shown and continued to be shown by our students and staff,” he noted.
“The fight against COVID, like our ancestors’ stand in great periods of history, will be remembered in a dignified way in the history of our university. This gives us a robust strength, a strong foundation to start building together the next 250 years of our university!” – said the rector.
At the event in MÜPA, Semmelweis University thanked the university staff and students who have been involved in the fight against COVID-19 over the past year and a half. The concert program began with Beethoven’s King Stephen Overture, followed by Antonin Dvořák’s New World Symphony performed by the Medic Orchestra, conducted by Gergely Dubóczky. During the evening, a short film produced by the Directorate for Communications and Event Management was shown, highlighting some of the moments of the fight against the coronavirus, and with which the rector of Semmelweis University thanked the COVID heroes.
The main organizers of the event were Dr. Éva Feketéné Szabó, Vice-Rector for Strategy and Development, and Dr. Péter Hermann, Vice-Rector for Education. Read our curtain raiser article here.
Translation: Tamás Deme
Photo: Attila Kovács – Semmelweis University