In Memoriam: Professor Douglas Veale (2024)


Conway Fellow, Professor Douglas J. Veale passed away surrounded by his family on 22 May 2024. He will be missed and fondly remembered by his family, friends, colleagues in academia and clinical practice as well as the many patients and their families that he served during his professional career. 

Speaking of his colleague, Professor Gerry Wilson said, "Douglas was an outstanding clinical scientist with an international reputation in the pathogenesis and treatment of inflammatory joint diseases.  His major focus was centred on the role of synovial fibroblasts in driving inflammation and tissue damage in rheumatoid arthritis.  

Along with his wife, Professor Ursula Fearon, he reported novel findings including the role of innate immune proteins, such as serum amyloid A, and hypoxia in driving the auto aggressive phenotype of these cells.  He also made important discoveries related to using a more personalised approach to treatments of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis.  He supervised a large number of MD and PhD students many of whom are now active in clinical and laboratory-based research."

People standing beside placque
Pictured (l-r) at the 2014 launch of the EULAR Centre of Excellence: Prof. Ursula Fearon, former Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Prof. Cecily Kelleher, Principal, UCD College of Health & Agricultural Sciences and Prof. Douglas Veale.

Bridging the gap between science and clinical practice, Professor Veale's work led to the establishment of the Centre for Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases (CARD) at St Vincent’s Hospital, which was recognised by the European League Against Rheumatic Diseases (EULAR) as a Centre of Excellence in 2014. The Centre comprised a broad research team funded by peer-reviewed grants from the EU, the Health Research Board, Science Foundation Ireland, the Higher Education Authority Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions and several industry partnership programmes and The American Federation for Ageing Research

The translational research programme integrated immunology research across groups - rheumatology with colorectal, endocrine and hepatic in the Education Research Centre at St Vincent's University Hospital, the UCD Conway Institute and Molecular Rheumatology at Trinity College Dublin. 

Douglas Veale was elected and served on the editorial board of prestigious scientific journals in his field including the Annals of Rheumatic Disease (impact factor 19.1) and RMD Open. He was an invited grant reviewer for the NIH/NIAMS Washington, USA (2017, 2021) and took on the roles of Chief Medical Officer for 5 years with two new start-up companies, Longboat Clinical and HealthBeacon, until 2020. In 2023, together with Ursula Fearon, Douglas hosted the 42nd European Workshop for Rheumatology Research in Dublin for the first time.

Douglas was recognised for his pioneering achievements in rheumatology, commitment to clinical and research excellence and dedication to patient care. He was the first recipient of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) Vice Chancellor's Outstanding Achievement Award in December 2023 and a lifetime achievement award at the Irish Society for Rheumatology Conference in Dublin in October 2023. 

Speaking at the award ceremony, Mr William Grant (Class of 1984, FRCSI 1989) acknowledged how his colleague's clinical and research endeavours had a direct and positive impact on patient care. He said: “Doug is a true pioneer in the field of rheumatology, and his contributions have had a profound impact on our understanding and treatment of rheumatic diseases. His enthusiasm is driven by a passion for healthcare in turn driven by a desire to achieve better ways of delivering better healthcare and to relieve suffering in his patients.”

Presenting the award, Professor Cathal Kelly, Vice Chancellor, RCSI said:  “Professor Veale is a role model for aspiring researchers, clinicians and students alike, and there is no doubt his work continues to inspire new generations of scientists and physicians...(it) is a fitting recognition of his exceptional contribution to driving improvements in human health.”

Woman presenting award to man

Irish Society for Rheumatology President Prof Geraldine McCarthy presenting Professor Douglas Veale with a lifetime achievement award in October 2023.

Douglas Veale was involved in and supported countless Arthritis Ireland initiatives, events and fundraising activities over the years, bringing enthusiasm, expertise and joy to everyone he met and engaged with. His work has left a lasting impact on patients and the medical community.

Arthritis Ireland said, "A longtime supporter and champion of Arthritis Ireland and those who live with arthritis, Doug will be greatly missed by the arthritis community and all who worked with him over his long and illustrious career."

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