Dr. Thomas Kerenyi's speech on the occasion of receiving the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary

Dear Friends and Guests,

I am very honored to receive this medal of the Hungarian Republic which the Consul General bestowed upon me.

For many years I felt, that for the great foundation in my education, received in Hungary before I left in 1956, I should give back something, when I can, someday.

The opportunity finally came when a grateful patient donated substantial funds towards my pet project. It was then, in the late 80's, when I was able to set up the Kerenyi Perinatal Research Foundation to sponsor a Fellowship. After the initial years when the Fellowship needed to be refunded, three friends stepped forward each helping for 2-3 years. First George Soros through his Open Society Institute, then Tamas Peterffy of NY and in the last couple of years Paul Josefowitz of London.

The Fellowship made it possible, between 1990 and 2002, for 10 young Hungarian obstetricians to spend one year each, at the Mount Sinai Hospital in NY, studying, observing, participating in research and learning English. After they returned to Hungary, I was pleased to see them prosper and advance in their carrier faster than expected, thanks to the enriching experience here in New York in this great City. Now they are leaders in their various academic communities in Debrecen, Pécs and Budapest, and I am very proud of them.

The project was regretfully terminated when I had a serious heart attack in late 2001 and had to concentrate on my recovery. I used that time to write a book about my experiences before and after 1956. The book was Titled: Ice Chips in English and Szívügy in Hungarian.

I also started an online interactive course on Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring. The course has been in use for three years at five large New York-area hospitals. Thus far, over 2,000 obstetrics clinicians, including physicians, nurses, and nurse/midwives have taken the course as part of their required continuing education. Last June I presented the course to the the annual meeting of the Hungarian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, held at the University of Debrecen. At the hosts request, we are now working toward making the course available in Hungarian. My former fellowship recipients, now well established in Hungary, will help in the translation and editing, and an application for supporting this project is pending with the OSI.

I’m very hopeful that this effort will not only advance the cause of medical education in Hungary, but also perpetuate the bond I’ve worked hard to develop between the leaders - and future leaders - of medicine in my two countries.

Recently, re-reading my own book, I remembered something about my father that I almost forgot. And when I was notified about receiving this honor I was struck by the parallel between him and myself.

In 1999 long after my father died, my mother who lived in Szeged, got in the mail a commemorative document which read: "For a Free Hungary" - and I quote: "Kerényi Józsefnek az 1945 és '56 között, a haza szabadságának és függetlenségének védelmében szerzett érdemek elismeréseként." - acknowledging my fathers contributions between 1945 and '56 for the defense of the country's freedom and independence.

But during that time he was in Siberia in a Gulag Camp trying to survive. 10 years on the Gulag!
I was far luckier here in America. I only had to look after 10 young doctors in New York to receive a similar decoration! - Tempora Mutantur!

In closing I would like to repeat my often quoted mantra, extracting a pledge from those homeward-bound Hungarian physicians when they came to say good bye to me.

- How could we thank you enough? - they all asked.
- My answer was always the same: "Keep the chain of goodwill going!"

I wanted them to remember, that when they find themselves in the position to be able to help someone, don't just think about it, but step up and do so - to maintain and reinforce an unbroken chain of GOODWILL.

I also ask the same from all of you here!
Thank you.