Will We Be Going to Herget’s Auditorium?

The Plzeňská campus is already in full use. Among other things, it houses the largest auditorium of the Second Faculty of Medicine. That is also one of the reasons why Prof. Václav Hampl from the Department of Physiology suggests that the auditorium should bear the name of the former vice-dean of the Second Faculty of Medicine and the person thanks to whom the faculty has its premises at Plzeňská Street in the first place, prof. Jan Herget.

How did you get the idea that the auditorium should be named after Professor Herget?

It was Prof. Herget who acquired the campus on Plzeňská for the Second Faculty of Medicine. During the previous regime (communist regime, ed. note), there were wooden buildings that served the military department. After the Velvet Revolution, when Jan Herget was the vice-dean of Professor Koutecký, he managed to acquire these spaces just for our faculty. First, the Department of Physiology moved in, which prof. Herget led, and later it was extended to other departments as well. It just occurred to me that now that the campus has been completed, it would be appropriate to remind current and future students of this matter as well.

The debate has progressed, and a proposal was made to name the entire campus after Professor Herget. How would you like this idea?

I would find that an even more elegant solution. I thought the naming of the auditorium was a good idea, because he really liked to teach and was a popular teacher. Naming the animal unit after him, for example, would not be entirely appropriate, although he also enjoyed working with laboratory animals. It seems to me that either the entire campus or the auditorium makes sense.

In the discussion that you started, other names of prominent personalities of the Second Faculty of Medicine appeared, such as prof. Koutecký or Prof. Hrodek…

Professor Koutecký is, of course, another name that should be permanently remembered by the faculty. I don't want these two to "fight" about anything posthumously. But Professor Koutecký was very much connected with clinical work. It would make more sense to me to name some spaces shared by the faculty and the hospital after him, rather than one just at the faculty.

If the naming of the auditorium after Professor Herget were to go through, do you think it would be enough to name the specific lecture hall, or would it require some visual modification in addition to the obligatory portrait?

I think that would be enough. When entering there, it would be appropriate to see a sign with a brief characterisation or his credit for the campus that the Second Faculty of Medicine now owns. Besides, I don't think that there is any need to modify the auditorium, like a larger-than-life statue of him in the corner. (laughs)

Prof. Václav Hampl (left) with prof. Jan Herget, archive photo
And if the entire campus bore Herget's name?

Well, probably similar. Professor Herget was, among other things, a terribly modest person and wouldn't stand for anything more pompous. I think he would be pleased to have something named after him, but that he probably wouldn't need to visually emphasize anything. I think a plaquette at the entrance might do the trick.

Are you not at all worried about folk creativity and common use of the name, like: "We have it at one o'clock in Herget?"

That's probably how it will be. That is why it is named; to be used. We are already saying that we are lecturing in Pelouch. The name lives on, it's remembered, and I think that's okay. After all, it was Prof. Herget who suggested naming the auditorium after the biochemist prof. Václav Pelouch. So it would be nice to return the favour to him.

You personally met with Prof. Herget back in the day, is that right?

When I graduated, I started looking for a job. My supervisor at the time put me in touch with Professor Herget. I started with him back in Karlovy Vary in the cellar of a "find". After the revolution, Professor Herget acquired those wooden buildings on the grounds of Plzeňská. It wasn't a high standard, but it was a huge upgrade from a 'find' cellar. Professor Herget was my supervisor at CSc. And then the head of the department where I worked. And above all, a great friend over the years.

Do you have any funny or warmhearted stories with him?

There is one thing for which I am very grateful to him. After school, he took me in as part of the PhD program at the time, which was called candidacy and for which the title of CSc was appointed. It was still before the revolution and I kind of suspected that it would be necessary for me to enter the party (the Communist party, ed. note), which I didn't want.

Prof. Jan Herget with the Nestor of the pulmonary hypertension field, prof. Bob Grover, receiving an award named after him by the American Thoracic Society in May 2011, Denver.

But there was no mention of it during the admission process itself, so I threw myself into research. Then the deadline was approaching when I had to hand in the final thesis. It was sometime in October 1989. The head of the faculty Communist Party called me and said: "Well, it's getting close, where is your application to the party?" And I said: "What application?"

It turned out that they gave Herget a condition to accepting me as a candidate: that during my time there, he had to “work on me” and make me submit an application to join the Communist Party. And he didn't even tell me.

He left me in blissful ignorance, because he knew that if I had known in the beginning, I would have said "nope, I'm not going to do that".

So I went to see him. And he said: "Don’t worry, we’ll solve it somehow." And it solved itself in such a way that the regime (communist regime, ed. note) collapsed. I was very lucky. Herget made it possible for me to study, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to do it.

And what was he like as a supervisor?

He wanted his people to be really good. He wasn't afraid of being outgrown. On the contrary, he supported it. Not that anyone has managed to do that yet, in my opinion, although many of his students are really good. After some time, I found a scholarship in America, and he was very supportive of me being there longer, even though I was absent here. He just wanted me to learn it properly. I also think that it was not very common and it is not quite common even today.

Prof. MUDr. Jan Herget, DSc (1945 – 2019)

He graduated from the Faculty of Pediatrics of Charles University. While still a med student, he began to focus on physiology. In 1964, he came to the Department of Pathological Physiology, where he focused on the resistance of the myocardium. He eventually chose the topic of pulmonary circulation, which he remained faithful to for the rest of his scientific career and became a world-renowned expert in this field.

He received the professorship in the field of physiology and pathological physiology in 1990. From the same year, he was the head of the Department of Physiology of the Second Faculty of Medicine. Since 1989, he was in prof. Josef Koutecký’s dean’s advisory board.

Herget's main scientific contributions include experimental work on pulmonary hypertension in various chronic lung diseases, the description and mechanisms of acute pulmonary vascular reactivity in chronic pulmonary hypertension, the discovery of the lifelong consequences of perinatal hypoxia (and other insults) on the properties of the pulmonary circulation, and especially a long series of findings on the role of modification of the connective component of the vascular wall in pulmonary hypertension and the role of oxygen radicals, nitric oxide and its metabolites and alveolar macrophages and mast cells.

Created: 30. 8. 2023 / Modified: 30. 8. 2023 / Bc. Tereza Lukešová