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Taoiseach Micheál Martin launches portrait of first female President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Prof Mary Horgan

Prof Horgan’s portrait joins that of Dr Kathleen Lynn and Laura Brennan at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland  

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has today launched a new portrait of Professor Mary Horgan. She is the first female President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. The portrait, by Cork-based artist Jack Hickey, is the third female portrait to hang in the college in its 368-year history. It is joining Dr Kathleen Lynn, who was Chief Medical Officer during the Easter Rising in 1916. This is alongside the late Laura Brennan. She is the powerful patient advocate and ardent promoter of the HPV vaccine, who died of cervical cancer aged 26 in 2019.


Prof Horgan, who is in her second term, is the College’s 142nd President. A native of Tralee County Kerry, she is a Consultant in Infectious Diseases. This is at Cork University Hospital where she worked on the COVID-19 ward throughout the pandemic. She is also the former Dean of the School of Medicine at University College Cork. Prof Horgan was a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team. She also chaired Ireland’s first National Research Ethics Committee and led the Expert Advisory Group on Rapid testing. This is a tool we have all become familiar with to help to protect each other.

Professor Horgan also strongly helped the return to sport, for children and adults, through her work with the GAA. This includes the reopening of the popular Cúl camps that saw thousands of children return to normal sporting activities. She also shared her expertise with World Rugby, the IRFU and Munster Rugby, to help them to return safely to live matches and training.

As President of the Royal College of Physicians she led the College’s response to the pandemic. It included weekly webinars bringing experts from all over the world together to share updates in information on COVID19. This is in addition to information how to care for patients with this disease. It directly informed the care provided during this national emergency in hospitals all over Ireland and in many other countries.

Royal College of Physicians of Ireland  

The College,  has over 11,000 Trainees, Members and Fellows around the world. It provides medical training and continuous education for doctors. This is in the fields of Public Health, Occupational Health Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Paediatrics, Medicine and Pathology. Doctors in all of these fields played leadership roles and informed the national response to COVID-19 during the pandemic. This was while maintaining medical training and education for doctors.

That National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) which played a crucial role in evaluating the safety of new vaccines and making recommendations that shaped the highly successful national vaccination campaign, is also part of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

Launching her portrait, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said:

“I am delighted to be here today to pay tribute to Prof Horgan and her great work, throughout many years in the field of infectious diseases. But particularly for her leadership and service in helping us to come through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She is a medical leader who came forward to help to make a difference during a national crisis. She shared her expertise and huge knowledge to shape patient care. It saved lives and reduced suffering and to inform our safe return to normal activities. She was a reassuring voice for the public, encouraging the uptake of vaccines. She provided practical advice and guidance on how to learn to live with this new infection, in a cautious rather than fearful way.

“The care provided to the Irish population by the doctors who are part of this great college ensured that many lives were saved. Those who succumbed to the disease had better outcomes. The international standing and reputation of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland allowed it to connect doctors here with those in China, Italy, the US. It furthered afield to facilitate the sharing of crucial and ever-changing information about COVID-19. That information immediately influenced the care provided in our hospitals and health care settings.

“I also want to acknowledge the work of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC). It has been part of the college for over 25 years. It contributed expertise and advice on new vaccines, that underpinned the national vaccination campaign’s success. This is with Ireland having one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.”

Prof Horgan said:

“I would like to thank the Taoiseach for his leadership. He has a long track record in providing leadership in public health, and indeed was awarded a medal by our Faculty of Public Health for the introduction of the world’s first smoking ban.  The country is fortunate to have a leader who follows the Science that led us to a better place today. He is also compassionate – mindful of the impact that this pandemic has had on each of us.

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland has provided leadership and patient care for many years now, dealing with previous pandemics and new diseases. Therefore, we will all learn from our recent experiences and continue to improve patient care in the year ahead.”

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland is Ireland’s largest postgraduate medical training body and provider of lifelong education for doctors.

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