December 2013

Honorary Degrees Awarded to Distinguished Irish Graduates

Fri, 6 December 13 18:00

Honorary degrees of Doctor of Science were conferred on three distinguished Irish graduates at the University’s conferring ceremony at O’Reilly Hall, Belfield on Tuesday 3rd December 2013.

Among those honoured were Professor Eilis McGovern, President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Professor Barbara Murphy, Chair of the Department of Medicine at The Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai in New York and serial entrepreneur, Dr Cormac Kilty, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Biotrin and co-founder, Chairman of Opsona Therapeutics.

Citations were delivered by Professor Colm O’Brien (UCD Professor of Ophthalmology at Mater Misericordiae University Hospital), Professor Catherine Godon (UCD Professor of Molecular Medicine) and Professor Michael Keane (UCD Professor of Medicine & Therapeutics at St Vincent’s University Hospital).

Honorary degrees were also conferred on leaders in journalism, public service, business and law including Emmy award-winning war correspondent, Mr Terence McCarthy ; retired circuit court judge, Ms Yvonne Murphy ; Mr Ciaran Murphy, CEO of global clinical research organisation, ICON ; and CEO of Enterprise Ireland, Mr Frank Ryan.


Citation | Prof Eilis McGovern

Delivered by Prof Colm O'Brien

Prof Eilis McGovern awarded a UCD Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science, December 2013.

Eilis Mc Govern was born in Mount Charles, Co. Donegal. After secondary school at St Louis Convent Monaghan she studied medicine at UCD. She excelled academically and graduated in 1978 winning the gold medal in surgery and silver medal in medicine. Other highlights of her undergraduate career include playing Hooker in the Premed women vs men rugby match.

Following internship and basic surgical training she obtained her Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1982. Coming first place in her fellowship exam was important but probably not as life changing as meeting and subsequently marrying her tutor Mr Joe Duignan (currently UCD Surgery). In 1985 Eilis was awarded a Council of Europe Fellowship to study in Paris.

Following a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota Eilis was appointed a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon in Dublin in 1987. She worked initially at the Mater and in 1999 subsequently established a new and highly progressive cardiac surgery unit at St James Hospital. Eilis’ colleagues speak of her extraordinary courage and dedication as a surgeon and educator. Her generosity and support of junior colleagues is legendary.

In 2010 Eilis was elected President of The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The Daily Telegraph headline read ‘Irish doctor becomes first female president of Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland’. Stating ‘An Irish doctor, who broke though male prejudice to become a consultant heart surgeon, has been elected the first female president of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in its 226 year history’. The headline probably tells us as much about the Daily Telegraph as about other prejudices. During her two year appointment as President of The College she lead its hybrid activities in protecting its heritage in surgery, research activities and provision of medical education all in the interests of enhanced patient care. Remarkably, she also kept up her clinical practice.

Such formidable time management and organisational skills are also evident in her varied outside interests: she is a wonderful cook, well read, a decent golfer and, perhaps less expected of a Donegal woman, she is an excellent skier; a passion that she shares with Joe and their two daughters Emma and Sophie who have followed their parents footsteps into medicine.

Eilis currently serves as the National Programme Director for Medical Training in the Health Service Executive. In leading the HSE’s Medical Education initiative she plays a vital role in medical workforce planning at this critical time in development of our health services and she is a key leader in the continuing development of strategies and operational models to support and enhance medical training.

Eilis has received several honours and awards in recognition of her extraordinary contributions including an honorary Fellowship of the American College of Surgeons. UCD is very happy to have an opportunity to honour one of ‘its own’ this morning: a compassionate clinical surgeon, master educator, a leader and inspirational role model.


Citation | Prof Barbara Murphy

Delivered by Prof Catherine Godson

Prof Barbara Murphy

Barbara Murphy is Chair of the Department of Medicine at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mt Sinai,NY, one of the top medical schools in the US. She is also Dean of Clinical Integration and Population-Based Health. Barbara has recently completed a term as President of the American Transplant Society. These are remarkable achievements for a young woman from Dublin.

Barbara is remarkable. She was educated at second level at Alexandra College where she was a head prefect in her final year and is remembered by her classmates for her razor sharp wit and Rapunzel.

She graduated from The Royal College of Surgeons in 1989 winning numerous prizes in medicine, surgery and psychiatry along the way. On completing her clinical training specialising in nephrology at Beaumont Hospital she was awarded a fellowship to Harvard Medical School. Her research in the renal division at Harvard focused on the field of transplant immunology. She made several important discoveries on the immunomodulatory role of MHC-derived peptides. These are discoveries which will be translated into patient benefit to ensure improved outcomes from organ transplants by limiting rejection.

In 2000 Barbara was recruited as Director of Transplant Nephrology to the Renal Division at Mt Sinai. She lead the division of nephrology there from 2004. In 2005 she was named the Irene and Dr. Arthur M. Fishberg Professor of Medicine. In November of last year she was appointed Chair and Dean at the Department of Medicine, the first woman dean of an academic medical center in NY.

Barbara’s research has continued in the area of transplant rejection. She was co-investigator on the recent landmark study investigating outcomes in HIV positive patients that receive a solid organ transplant.

She currently leads a major multicentre, multidisciplinary study investigating the genetic basis of disease in transplanted organs. Translating the outcomes of this work will have major impact not only in the context of organ transplant but also other kidney diseases. Subsequent to her Presidency of the American Transplant Society. Barbara Co-Chairs their Public Policy committee where she aims to impact patient care and access to healthcare. She seamlessly combines her numerous academic, clinical and research responsibilities and is a generous and supportive collaborator and mentor. Many of those who have trained with her have now secured tenured academic positions at leading medical centres further propagating her contributions.

Outside medicine Barbara’s interests are eclectic and include music: classical, opera and occasionally Eurovision. She is a motor racing fan, a legacy from her days moonlighting as course doctor at Mondello Park. Barbara has a keen interest in Irish and US politics. She loves to entertain at her home and is a wonderful cook and charming hostess. Barbara and her husband Peter Fogarty are proud parents of 3 and a half year old Gavin.

Barbara’s dedication and achievements have been recognised with numerous honors including The Lester Hoenig Award, The American Transplant Society Young Investigator Award and The American Kidney Fund Nephrologist of the Year Award.

We welcome Barbara to her home town today together with her parents John and Ann Murphy and Gavin. UCD is delighted to honour Barbara Murphy’s exemplary leadership and contributions in translational medicine, education, advocacy and patient care.


Citation | Prof Cormac Kilty

Delivered by Prof Michael Keane

It is a pleasure to introduce to you Dr Cormac Kilty who was born in Cork and following his early education in Cork moved to Dublin where he attended CBC Monkstown.

Dr Kilty next attended UCD to study science where he reached two milestones, obtaining his BSc degree and meeting his future wife, Anne.  He subsequently went on to obtain a PhD in Zoology and Biochemistry from University College Dublin, Ireland. Dr. Kilty has carried out post-doctoral research in protein chemistry and immunology at the University of Texas at Austin and at University College Dublin.

His subsequent career exemplifies that of the rare individual with a passion for science married to a keen business acumen.  It is often said that scientists and doctors make poor business men and managers, Dr Kilty has proven that is not the case.

He joined the Diagnostics Division of Baxter Healthcare in 1986 and served as the Head of their European Research and Development group in Switzerland from 1987 to 1991.

He was founder and CEO of Biotrin Technologies Ltd. in Dublin from 1992-08, founder and past Chairman of Opsona Theraputics, Dublin 2004-09 and founder and CEO of Argutus Medical, specialising in the development of novel biomarkers of kidney damage.  He is the founder and recent past Chair of the Irish BioIndustry Association.  He served as the Chief Technical Officer of EKF Diagnostics Holdings Plc since December 2, 2010.

He has been Director of Nova University College Dublin, since August 2006. He received the Biolink Life Science achievement award in 2007 from President Mary McAleese

Despite the successful career in biotechnology he has maintained strong links with the school of Medicine and the School of Business at UCD and is a major contributor to the newly opened Science Centre which has been the most recent addition to the transformation of the campus at UCD.  This new building cements the central role for science on the campus.   Through his generosity, the grey campus that I attended in the 1980s is a distant memory. It has been replaced by a vibrant one with science research and innovation at its core.  Dr Kilty represents all that we strive for in research excellence and innovation. 

On a more personal note he has strong ties to UCD hockey having served as its President.  Behind all successful scientists and businessmen there is a family and I have no doubt that much of his success is a testament to his wife Anne, daughter Ruth Anne and son Michael who are all present today.

I can think of no more worthy recipient of the Doctor of Science degree and the School of Medicine and the wider University look forward to our ongoing collaborations.