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Ties to Historic University in Hungary Give Mutual Benefits
The friendship of two young scientists working at the National Institutes of Health 30 years ago has led to the establishment of a mutually beneficial affiliation agreement between the University of Debrecen Medical School in Hungary and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
“My interest in collaborating with colleagues began about the time I was finishing my fellowship at the National Institutes of Health,” said Peter J. A. Davies, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for research at the UT Health Science Center. “While I was in the National Cancer Institute for four years as a public health fellow, I became friends with a Hungarian scientist, Laszlo Fesus, M.D., Ph.D. Although we had independent labs, we were working in the same area of research.”
In 1979 when Davies joined the UT Medical School at Houston as an assistant professor in pharmacology, Fesus returned to the University of Debrecen Medical School in Hungary.
“Two years later, Laszlo invited me to visit Debrecen,” Davies remembers. “We talked about working together to further develop the science program.”
Davies agreed to collaborate, and the UT Health Science Center established an affiliation with what has become the University of Debrecen Medical and Health Science Center with Fesus as president.
In Debrecen, the second largest city in Hungary, the history of higher education goes back to 1538, when the College of Debrecen was established. Beginning in the 1700s, physicians were trained in the college, and in 1918 the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Debrecen was established.
In 1986, the Medical School at the University of Debrecen established a parallel curriculum in English, so that international students may choose between English and Hungarian as the language of their studies.
“They just built a beautiful research facility, which was funded by the European Union, for the biological sciences,” Davies said.
Over the last 20 years, many faculty scientists and students have exchanged visits between the two institutions.
For example, Laszlo Nagy, M.D., Ph.D., was a visiting medical student in 1989, returned to Davies’ lab in 1992 as a postdoctoral fellow, and now is a professor of biochemistry and a Howard Hughes fellow at Debrecen.
“Peter’s mentorship significantly contributed to how and what kind of scientist I became,” Nagy said. “It was particularly important for us that we could count on Peter’s expertise and insights not only in our particular research projects, but also in the establishment of our clinical Genomics Center.”
Davies has visited Debrecen numerous times, consulting on the development of core laboratories, teaching, lecturing and serving on the organizing committee for an international biomedical conference.
In 1998, the University of Debrecen Medical School awarded an honorary doctorate to Davies.
“Debrecen has become one of the most dynamic and successful Hungarian biomedical institutions,” Davies said. “Our affiliation has helped build our strong linkage in the world’s research community.”
By Nora K. Shire for Institutional Advancement
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