Finalist of the category: Outstanding academic

Jozef Záhumenský


„Nowadays, a skilled learner has access to the same information resources as the lecturer and can quickly recognize whether there is a knowledgeable expert in front of them or not.“

Childbirth is the beginning of a new life, but a mother's injury during childbirth can have unfortunate effects on her own life. Head of II. Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Faculty of Medicine, Comenius University and University Hospital in Bratislava-Ružinov prof. MUDr. Jozef Záhumenský, PhD., devoted a large portion of his professional career to a detailed study of the impact of childbirth and birth injuries on the quality of life of women in the following period.

"We examined how the management of childbirth, but also some parameters of its course can affect the extent of the birth injury and what the consequences are for the occurrence of some early postpartum complications, such as pain, sexual problems or difficulties with urinating and stool. We have found that vaginal wall injuries have more serious consequences for the quality of life than injuries to the pelvic floor muscles, which is why it is extremely important to emphasize the prevention, diagnosis and quality treatment of these injuries, "says Jozef Záhumenský.

He is currently working with his doctoral students on other topics related to childbirth and its outcome. They try to describe the birth process in detail and find out the reasons why some mothers, especially first-time ones, experience disorders of its course and a slowdown, i.e. cessation of childbirth. There are many, for example early admission of mothers to the operating room, iatrogenic interference in childbirth, early administration of analgesia, improper medicine administration, but there are also many factors, such as the position of the mother, the elasticity of the birth canal, or the hormonal balance, which have not yet been sufficiently dealt with. "As the head of the clinic, I have the opportunity to influence many things and then monitor their impact on the occurrence of obstetric complications," says Jozef Záhumenský.

The World Health Organization and the International Federation of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians consider redundant caesarean sections to be one of the main obstetric topics today. The clinic, run by Jozef Záhumenský, made a significant contribution to the analysis of the causes and possible solutions to this problem. They have validated the first Slovak questionnaire to identify the concerns of mothers regarding the upcoming childbirth, and are currently verifying what effects this may have on the incidence of birth defects. In addition, his team is conducting research into the mental disorders of pregnant women in connection with the coronavirus pandemic and their impact on childbirth.

He considers scientific and pedagogical work to be an integral part of his professional life. According to him, a university professor is obliged to constantly maintain knowledge of his subject at the highest level possible. New information is revealed on a daily basis, which can often fundamentally change the current knowledge.

"Nowadays, a skilled learner has access to the same information resources as the lecturer and can quickly recognize whether there is a knowledgeable expert in front of them or not. During my lectures, I advise students to keep an eye on the online medical databases on a given subject and to check whether the lecturer is really well-versed on the subject. It does not hurt if they check whether the lecturer has published anything in the given field or on the lectured topic, " Jozef Záhumenský points out, and adds that if a lecturer wants to maintain an adequate level of knowledge, they have to be involved in scientific work. He tries to explain an issue to his students in all its complexity, not only isolated topics or diagnoses. Fifth-grade medical students attend the clinic, so in their lectures they follow up on curricula from preclinical and other clinical disciplines to see that examinations in anatomy, embryology, pharmacology, genetics, surgical propaedeutics and the like were not done in vain. He presents gynaecological issues so that they will be useful to them in their future practice. If a student wants to become a pediatrician, for example, he emphasizes his knowledge of pediatrics and adolescent gynaecology or neonatology, if they want to become an internist, he focuses on high blood pressure during pregnancy, if they plan to become a surgeon, then differential diagnosis of abdominal pain comes into focus. He then requires a comprehensive look into a patient’s health, and the practical use of the acquired knowledge in the final state exams.

"I find it difficult to put up with the lack of interest of his students, especially when it is associated with disrespecting a patient, which is manifested by disruption during rounds. Another unpleasant situation may occur when, for instance, during childbirth I ask students a simple question and no one knows the answer, but the mother's partner does. That's a real shame, "he says.

According to Jozef Záhumenský, it is important that students are interested in the subject, so he teaches in such a way that his lectures and seminars answer specific questions and problems. He often uses case studies that have been solved with the latest scientific knowledge. As he also acts as a forensic expert in the field of gynaecology and obstetrics, he can rely on cases where insufficient expertise of a doctor has led to serious damage to the patient's health. Students respond very well to these practical examples, they often discuss them for a long time, sometimes even in further lectures, after they have read the latest information about the given topic and are able to assess it from a different perspective. As he reminds, he also presents the results of his own observations and research to students. He claims that in addition to the study of literature, the analysis of the results of his own work is no less relevant source of knowledge.