Back when Professor Gábor Bodó was sitting at the desks of the University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, the streets leading to the campus were still loud with clip-clopping hooves, as the Big Animal Clinic used to be in the heart of the Elizabethtown district. On the other hand, the Hortobágy region was also represented there in the form of Csatlós, the famous Hungarian grey bull, whose statue was erected at the request of Professor Imre Bodó, the father of our interviewee. The head of the Equine Medicine Department and Clinic is one of those teachers who are tied to the Alma Mater through their family roots, too. His story is engaging and his achievements, made together with his excellent colleagues, are impressive. Here’s an excerpt from the interview.
– Professor, how would you summarize the first twenty years of your life?
– My life situations in this period determined my future path, just like it did for so many other people. I spent my first five years in Hortobágy, the great Hungarian plains. Animals were a part of our daily lives, since my father worked as a director of animal husbandry. The horses used to graze right next to our fence. When I was two, one day I set out on a journey and fell into a ditch the workers had just dug between the barn and our house. They picked me up and put me over to the other side. I went on, and my family later found me among the horses after an intensive search. If you’re not afraid of horses, they’ll take care of you. You can crawl around under their bellies. Since there were seven of us, siblings, my parents decided to move to Budapest in the 1970s to make sure we could go into higher education. The years spent in Máta stay with all of us forever as a beautiful memory. As a formative experience of my high school years, I had a lot of success as a junior dressage rider in the national team and a show jumper as Gyula Dallos’ student.
– Your father was also born in the capital city, and then studied at the Piarists.
– He graduated from there, too, but first he studied in the Kőszeg cadet school, where he was taken as a prisoner of war at the age of 13. He got back from Garmisch-Partenkirchen… My two brothers and I got our A-levels from the Piarists, too. By then, I had already made up my mind about my career. During my early dressage rider years, my horse, a Gidran stallion called Ganges, got lame. My juvenile critical attitude to the existing rudimentary options gave me the idea that I could do it differently. That’s when I decided to become a horse surgeon.
– How much progress has the world made in terms of treating lameness since then?
– When Ganges got lame, Hungary hardly even had any X-ray equipment yet. Vets often relied on their intuition back then. Owing to its cooling effect, a clay pack can be a good idea for a fresh sprain, but without an accurate diagnosis it was rather just a stab in the dark.
Patient numbers have shown an annual growth of 15-20% in the clinic over the past 5 years, which is primarily due to the increasing quality of professional care and services as well as the significant investments conducted in the previous year. Procured in 2020, our CT and MRI instruments now allow us to examine limbs in a standing position all the way to the tarsus and/or the hock. Within the first year, the clinic carried out 140 and 120 standing CT and MRI examinations, respectively. This could never have been possible without bringing our outstanding colleague, Associate Professor Annamária Nagy home from England. She is specialized in the examination of orthopaedic horse patients and the related imaging diagnostics. Among other things, MRI today allows us to identify injuries to the vital anatomic parts of the hoof, for example, the short section of the deep digital flexor. As a result, treatment can be much more precisely targeted, too.
– How can you handle the stress that comes with your job?
– Not always well. I find it especially hard to tolerate if I feel someone was neglectful and failed to complete a task, which may cause harm to horses. As I grow older however, I seem to realize more and more that a kind word can often be more effective than any reprimand. If I can, I try to solve problems in a more peaceful way than I used to. As far as I’m concerned, horse riding is still the best stress relief. I love reading, too. All in all, I think family is the most important thing as it gives you the security you need and helps you in whatever problems you’re going through.
– The Bodó family is legendary for being so extended as it is…
– My father will be 90 this year, my mother is 87. Together with my siblings, the 36 grandchildren and the 36 great-grandchildren, the “immediate” Bodó family has over 100 members. My wife and I have always thought having a big family is a great thing. We’re both very happy to be the parents of our four beautiful children. My wife is a criminal lawyer. Her complex job involves a lot of responsibility, but she takes care of the daily tasks and motherly duties that come with our four children, and I will be eternally grateful to her for that. Without her support, I wouldn’t be where I am today. We moved to Pestlőrinc in 2001 so that we could live close to both the Clinic and the Court. Twenty minutes is still a safe distance even when you have to hurry to the surgery.
Finally, let me share with you a few things that have been motivating, driving and inspiring me ever since my childhood. I have been involved with the Regnum Marianum community since the age of five. As an adult, I organized weekly gatherings and week-long nomadic camps up until the early 2000s. Today, our children are members and leaders of these small communities, which were forbidden and persecuted under the “cursed” Communist regime. In the last 20 years, my wife and I became members of the Families in Jesus Community as chief organizers or participants of many events. For example, we have been involved in preparing engaged couples for marriage. I believe these things can be the fundamental pillars of a Christian Hungary.