Andras Szatmari

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I am the Medical Director of the Pediatric Cardiac Centre at the Hungarian Institute of Cardiology (HIC) in Budapest. I started my career as a cardiologist in Budapest, where I took the basic training in paediatrics and paediatric cardiology. At that time, life in Eastern Europe was rather hard, and I was glad to be offered a chance to work with Prof. Hess in the Netherlands. After training and working for almost five years in Rotterdam at the Sophia Children’s Hospital, I returned to Budapest in 1993 to help develop the field of paediatric cardiology here. Finally, we were able to inaugurate the Pediatric Cardiac Centre at the Hungarian Institute of Cardiology, where we basically treat all Hungarian patients with congenital heart defects.

What were the main challenges in establishing the centre?
First of all, we needed good people, good surgeons. We also had to convince the governmental officials and politicians that a single cardiology centre is more sensible and efficient for a country like Hungary with only 10 million inhabitants. Fortunately, we were successful, so in 1996, we started planning the new centre right next door to the building where we worked. We now do about 600 heart surgeries a year, which is comparable to other big European heart centres. But we had to work very hard to get to where we are now, because Hungary isn’t a rich country.

Like in other large European heart centres, adult cardiology and paediatric cardiology in the Hungarian Centre are under one roof. This has several advantages. Technological developments and breakthroughs usually come first to adult cardiology. Being close to the adult cardiology unit, we can use the new technologies. We also communicate closely with other specialists. As patients get older, we cooperate closely with the adult cardiologists. Paediatric cardiology and adult cardiology are basically next-door neighbours, so once the patient turns 18, he or she can just move on, and we can talk to our adult cardiology colleagues to make the transition easy.

How do you think other Eastern European countries could advance medical treatment of congenital heart defects?
From my experience, it’s not a question of motivation, but the basic training of young medical doctors is often lacking. In Europe it is our responsibility to share knowledge, to train people and thereby enable them to improve the medical care in their countries. That’s why the AEPC has established trainings for junior doctors. This was one of the projects I promoted most passionately during my time as president of the AEPC.

What do you like about Corience?
Heart defects are among the most severe medical conditions. They pose complex and lifelong challenges. That’s why it is important to inform the parents and patients about the real facts, the real risks. Corience provides controlled and valuable data to patients because doctors, patients, parents, and media specialists are working together on this project. Secondly, Corience demonstrates the problems which exist for patients with congenital heart defects and presents it to the politicians. And the third thing I really like about Corience is its European dimension. I like it that we realized that we are one continent and that we can work together.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I like music and fine arts a lot. This comes from my father, who studied fine arts and music. They play an important part in my life.