200th birth anniversary of Ignaz Semmelweis in 2018: Hungary honors the great physician in many ways!

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The fact that the 200th birth anniversary of Ignaz Semmelweis (born on July 1st, 1818) is celebrated under the High Patronage of the President of Hungary, János Áder, demonstrates the importance of the great physician and his achievements. In Hungary the whole year 2018 is an official memorial year. Why is it so important to celebrate his birth anniversary in the context of many events and initiatives?

It is our moral and professional responsibility to show to the young generation and the whole world the exceptional life of this great scientist and to recall his discovery, that plays an important role even today in our lives.

Yes, his achievements are of enormous importance for us today – especially in the hospital setting. Many people die every year due to healthcare associated infections, hand hygiene is still a big issue. But fortunately Semmelweis’ name is often mentioned, especially in the context of hand hygiene – Prof. Didier Pittet from the WHO is perhaps the best known example of permanently recalling Semmelweis.

Yes, the international reputation of Semmelweis can be seen in many examples. With respect to the discovery of aseptic prevention of puerperal fever, a complete documentation was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Memorial Book in 2013, and upon the UNESCO call the year 2015 was commemorated as the150th year of his death worldwide. His importance can be identified also by many other things – if we take for example a look in the Hall of immortals at the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago one can see among the statues of the most innovative medical-health physicians a Semmelweis statue.

Can you give us a short overview of the program in occasion of the 200th birth anniversary of Ignaz Semmelweis?

There will be several meetings, one is scheduled for 5th of June in the house of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The more important event is the memorial conference at Semmelweis University on 30th of June. The Semmelweis University established the ”Semmelweis Memorial Committee” which I chair as the President. In 2018, on the Semmelweis 200 year birth anniversary, we will organize university academic courses, scientific memorial gatherings, public lectures, publish books and studies, and work on international professional forums. We will present the Semmelweis opera of Ray Lustig, a contemporary music composer, and the Semmelweis drama of Jens Bjornrboe will be open to public this year. Upon our request, the Hungarian Post will print a memorial stamp, and the Hungarian National Bank and the Hungarian Mint Ltd., will introduce the memorial Semmelweis coin.

I am very impressed about the variety of projects you plan for this year. What could/should the two initiatives in Budapest and Vienna contribute to make the so important concern of Semmelweis even more present? 

In the name of the Semmelweis Memorial Committee, I wish to request your kind help in better and wider realization of the commemoration of the 200th birth anniversary of Semmelweis in every country.

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Carola Timmel is journalist for print and radio and professional speaker. Her focus lies on the topic Medicine & Health.

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