It is not very uncommon to see fathers and sons with distinguished careers at the same workplace. Although not completely extraordinary, the story of Dr. Sándor Cseh and his father is certainly not typical. They don’t have any photos of working together, because the professor of the Department of Obstetrics and Food Animal Medicine Clinic lost his father when he was 16. By that time however, he was already deeply interested in the veterinary profession. In his office, the memory of Sándor Cseh Sr. is represented by two pictures and a 900-page book authored/edited by him. In 1949, he conducted and supervised the birth of the first calf conceived through artificial insemination in Hungary. In 1979, his son began his career at the embryo transfer station in Üllő. Here’s an extract of our interview with him.
My father was born in Sövényháza near the city of Szeged, in a farming family. He got a degree from the Veterinary Medicine Department of the Hungarian Royal Palatine Joseph University of Polytechnics and Economics in 1939. A year later, Dr. Henrik Hetzel invited him to join the Obstetrics Clinic as an assistant lecturer. He was soon drafted into the army. He was a POW and released after 3 years in 1948.
How did you spend your childhood years?
I was born in 1954. My father was 40 at the time. I went to primary school in Hernád Street. The school had weekly morning and afternoon shifts, so I either went from the school to the University or vice versa. I saw various kinds of medical operations, so I already got close to the veterinary profession back then. In 1971, we were already living in Buda. One day the next year, my father was driving me to Toldy Ferenc High School when he got sick. I took the wheel and drove him to János Hospital, but by the time we got there, he was already gone. His third heart attack took his life.
How did you follow in your father’s footsteps almost immediately in 1979, after you got your degree?
The Üllő Embryo Transfer Station was looking for a vet. They had just started the introduction of a new reproductive technology a few months earlier. I was hired, and I worked there until 1995. I was involved in the transfer of cattle and sheep embryos, the cryopreservation of embryos and the in vitro fertilization (IVF) of cattle and sheep oocytes. As a result, Hungary’s first calves and lambs from in vivo and in vitro produced and cryo-preserved embryos were born. I am credited for the adaptation and industrial application of a successful large-scale sheep embryo transfer technology.
Starting in 1995, I spent 4 years at Loma Linda University’s School of Medicine as a visiting researcher. My research area was the assisted reproduction of primates. In addition, I also participated in the work of the university hospital’s infertility centre. That’s how I got involved in the human IVF programme, including the cryopreservation of human embryos.
How did your career go on?
Accepting Prof. Dr. László Solti’s invitation, who headed the Department and Clinic of Obstetrics and Reproductive Biology from 1994 to 2011, I returned to Hungary in 1999. I founded a new laboratory, the Laboratory of Andrology and Assisted Reproduction. I have been a Doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences since 2004 and I served as a Head of Department between 2011 and 2020. Since 2002, I have been serving as a consultant at the Buda Infertility Centre of Szent János Hospital. I work as a member of the team that is credited for conducting the birth of the first new-borns from cryo-preserved ova in Hungary and Central-Eastern Europe, which was also the 3rd such case in Europe and the 8th in the world.
At present, I am happy to supervise the work of young biologists, veterinary researchers and clinicians as the leader of UVMB’s Andrology/Assisted Reproductive Research Group.
Beside all that diverse work, what do you like doing in your spare time?
Fortunately, my wife tolerates that I work so much. She obtained a degree in Hungarian studies and popular education at ELTE University and a librarian diploma at KLTE. She retired from the library of the College of Health at Semmelweis University. We like going to the cinema, but we also watch movies on streaming channels. We are infected with the love for theatre arts as my younger son David, after obtaining his diploma from ELTE University, got a degree in dramaturgy at the University of Theatre and Film Arts as well. His play “Still Beautiful After a Storm” is on the repertory of Vígszínház theatre. He also works as a visiting lecturer at the Hungarian University of the Arts. Dániel is four years older, he has a Fulbright Scholarship and teaches at ELTE University’s Department of American Studies. They have both obtained a PhD degree. Dani and I like going to football matches, and we all love family trips.