Finalist of the category:
Outstanding Scientist in Slovakia

Andrea Madarasová Gecková

Health psychology

There is good human potential in Slovakia. It just needs more space.

How do psychological and social factors contribute to human health? This issue is addressed by Prof. Andrea Madarasová Gecková, PhD., who works at the Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences at Comenius University in Bratislava and the Faculty of Medicine at Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Košice. She has been developing the potential of young people and researching health psychology in Slovakia and the Czech Republic for more than 20 years.

In her work, Andrea Madarasová Gecková concentrates on vulnerable groups. She focuses on the possibilities for healthy development and fully-fledged life regardless of social and health background. She also studies psychological resilience to adverse conditions, situations and crises.

Professor Madarasová Gecková and her colleagues address four research topics. The first topic is the healthy development of adolescents, monitoring it, and discovering ways to promote it. The second topic is the examination of the tendencies of adolescents with emotional and behavioural problems in the care system and ways to improve them. The third topic covers the impact of extreme poverty on the health of the inhabitants of marginalised Roma communities. Her team is currently researching the first thousand days of life, as this period is crucial for healthy development. The fourth topic is living with chronic disease and the health-care system. They try to reveal what helps patients to live a good life despite chronic disease and how to get the most out of the health care provided. In this area, Andrea Madarasová Gecková also examines ways to support health professionals to perform their jobs as well as possible and not pay for it with their mental health.

She describes her work as an effort to give voice to those who need it, substantiated by scientific arguments. "We're not doing this for fun," the scientist explains. "We do our job where it really is needed, with those who need it. We want the world to change step by step into a better living place." Professor Madarasová Gecková and her team work not only as scientists but also as ambassadors. They are working to popularize the results of studies in the media. They also involve specific experts working with vulnerable groups in their research.

Since childhood, Professor Madarasová Gecková has been intensively involved in sports, but in the end left the national judo team in order to study psychology. She says that sport taught her to use her potential, but the desire to know and a belief in human potential have taken her down a different path. She is a naturally curious person who likes to accept challenges. "A ‘don't know’ is a challenge in science, not a threat. It is an adventure that makes it worthwhile to try, to be wrong, and to try again. Every unsuccessful attempt counts because it is the only way to know the unknown." She studied psychology in Košice and defended her PhD. in sciences at the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Groningen’in the Netherlands. She currently works at the universities in Bratislava and Košice as a coordinator of the Slovak national team of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) project, which aims to monitor the health and health-related behaviour of schoolchildren. She is also the national representative of the COST network, which aims to promote the psychological resilience of health professionals.

In her leisure hours, Professor Madarasová Gecková tries to spend as much time as possible active outdoors. A few years ago, she started beekeeping. Besides her outdoor pursuits, she is a lover of literature and art. She has two teenage daughters and a mathematician husband, so science is way of life in their family.