March 22, 2021 10:23
Dr. Eszter Bári – From Semmelweis University to American COVID vaccine development

Dr. Eszter Bári (Hudák) graduated from Semmelweis University in 2004 with a medical degree, and now, as a research manager, she has been at the forefront of coronavirus vaccine development. In Australia, she led the test phase of the American Novavax vaccine. In addition to her university years, she also spoke about how her career evolved and how she became a research manager in vaccine development.

How do you remember your years at Semmelweis University as a student?

The time spent at the university was very decisive for me, I enjoyed being a university citizen and the dormitory life on Tömő street. The Biology lectures by Dr. György Csaba, the Physiology lessons of Dr. Márk Kollai, the internal medicine practices of Dr. István Karádi and Dr. András Kerkovits and the classes in pediatrics by Dr. György Fekete are all unforgettable memories to me.

I started university with the intention of becoming an obstetrician-gynecologist, this had been my dream since I was a teenager. After my first year of studies, I spent the summer nursing practice at the 2nd Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and then I turned to pediatric gynecology and endocrinology. During my 5th year for a short time, I was doing scientific work under the supervision of Dr. Éva Hosszú at the 2nd Department of Pediatrics, where I examined the effect of corticosteroid treatment on bone growth in children born with adrenogenital syndrome. Unfortunately, I developed a severe metal allergy, so it became clear that I could not be a practicing physician, therefore my focus shifted more and more towards prevention.

It was a great honor for me when Dr. Endre Morava, who used to be the head of the Department of Public Health Sciences then, accepted my application in 2004 and I was able to start my residency in Preventive Medicine and Public Health. My mentor was Dr. Judit Forrai, whose respect towards her profession and the tireless professional curiosity taught me a great deal both professionally and personally.

Were you already interested in epidemics and vaccines at that time?

In 2005, I was admitted to the National Epidemiological Center, where I started to work at the Department of Epidemiology headed by Dr. Ágnes Csohán, where I worked with Dr. Zsuzsanna Molnár, Chief Physician focusing on influenza. I also had the opportunity to take part in the disease control of the avian influenza H5N1 pandemic, preparing for the pandemic in Hungary. I was lucky to meet with highly knowledgeable virologists like Dr. György Berencsi, Dr. István Jankovics and I was able to hold the H5N1 vaccine developed in Hungary, in my hands. Finally, thanks to a European Union scholarship, I graduated from the University of Maastricht in Master of Public Health in Epidemiology.

Read more about the story of Dr. Eszter Bári on the official website of Semmelweis University here.