Pharmacology and toxicology are two major pillars of veterinary medicine. In his interview for our magazine, the head of the Pharmacology and Toxicology Institute and acting Vice-Rector for Science and Research Dr Ákos Jerzsele told us that without drugs, we would never be able to provide the kind of medical service we can offer today. Here’s an extract of our interview with him.
– Professor, may I ask you to introduce yourself to our readers?
– I was born in District 3 Óbuda in 1980. We lived in a small flat, in modest conditions with my restorer father and my accountant mother. We were one of the first families to move to the newly-built Káposztásmegyer housing estate in District 4 in 1986. I obtained my A-level degree in Babits Mihály Grammar School, from where I was admitted to the University of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. That’s where I met my wife dr. Melinda Donka in 2004. I was already a graduate when she was in her second year. We married in 2010. We have two children and we live in a detached house in the suburban area of Rákospalota. Melinda works as a vet at PrimaVet pet clinic.
– Why did you choose veterinary medicine as a career?
– Like so many others, I listened to my heart: I’ve always wanted to be a vet. I did have some second thoughts in high school when I came across the IT revolution but I made a good decision not to pursue an engineering career. My original fascination with animals has turned into an enthusiasm for science by now. Although I prefer clinical work and education, we still have three cats at home and there are a few chickens browsing in the garden, too.
Students say you hold good lectures and the material is easy to follow but they always add that you’re quite strict when it comes to asking back what you taught them.
I don’t think I’m biassed when I say that pharmacology is one of the most important paraclinical subjects. I’m not saying that because I work in pharmacology but because I’ve had an active practice for 15 years. As a clinical vet, I am very much aware that you can’t be a good vet unless you have an in-depth knowledge of what we teach here. Beside the trinity of internal medicine – obstetrics – surgery, I believe this is the fourth most important subject for practising vets.
– 2019 will certainly be a memorable year for you since you took over the department from Professor Gálfi and became acting vice-rector for science and research which is a strategic area for the university.
– The Rector has been hinting at his plan since the spring, so I have been thinking about this new challenge quite a lot. By the time I got the assignment, we had already completed many tasks which I very much enjoyed, and we could see results, too. In mid-November we won the innovative eco-system tender, allowing us to establish a new Innovation Office within the university.
– Where would you position the discipline of pharmacology in the magic matrix of veterinary medicine?
– Answering your question based on the existing preclinical, clinical and paraclinical modules, I should say I think we are the closest to the clinical subjects now. We are also tied to food safety since we teach the food and health safety expiry times, and we provide students information on the significance of residual substances that people consume through animal products. Unfortunately, we are also right in the centre of the most pressing problem since antimicrobial resistance develops through the use of antibiotics. The knowledge of how to contain antimicrobial resistance is now a mandatory subject in our curriculum. This is a clearer indication than ever that vets are responsible for human health, too.
– What do you mean when you say pathogens have more and more sophisticated strategies?
– There are hundreds of billions of bacteria in each human or animal body. When we “attack” them with antibiotics, most of them i.e., the most sensitive ones, die. However, if just one in a thousand survives because it’s less sensitive to the applied antibiotic, this population will start proliferating in the body and there will soon be a hundred billion of them. So we’ve just taken a step towards resistance. We ourselves speed up evolution with the antibiotic. The law of large numbers allows these bacteria to select within weeks or days. You can’t stop evolution – that’s nature’s Darwinian premise. There are much more bacteria than people: we are at a significant evolutionary disadvantage. It is absolutely vital to suppress the use of antibiotics so that we could reduce this selection pressure and only apply these drugs when they are truly necessary.
– What’s your message to the students?
– Dare to dream big and then make your dreams come true. But you should also help to sustain human civilization on Earth. Make drugs sustainable, too, otherwise, we can’t accomplish the larger goal I mentioned before.
Interview by Gusztáv, Balázs – UNIVET Magazine, 2019 December