Announcing New President of RUMC (RCSI & UCD Malaysia Campus)

Professor David Whitford takes up the post in RCSI & UCD Malaysia Campus (RUMC) as its fifth president in August 2020. David Whitford was appointed to this position having been interim President in RUMC since August 2019. In April 2017, David moved to RUMC, Penang as Vice President (Academic Affairs).  He joined RUMC having been Professor in the Department of General Practice at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). He graduated in medicine from Cambridge and Newcastle Universities in the UK and practiced as a General Practitioner for 16 years in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. He was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal College of General Practitioners in 1996, and a Doctorate from Cambridge University in 2003.

Professor Whitford has had extensive leadership experience in both clinical and academic spheres. Throughout his career he has had an emphasis on quality of delivery. David took up a post in academic general practice in RCSI, Dublin in 2003. He moved to Bahrain in 2006 where he established the community-based teaching in RCSI Bahrain as Foundation Professor of General Practice. He was later appointed Head of the School of Postgraduate Studies and Research in RCSI Bahrain in 2012. His research interests are in Type 2 diabetes and the impact of socio-economic deprivation on health.

Wholly-owned by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and University College Dublin (UCD), RCSI & UCD Malaysia Campus (RUMC) is located in Penang, Malaysia. Founded in 1996, RUMC is Malaysia’s first accredited private medical school, and one of only ten Foreign University Branch Campus in Malaysia. RUMC remains the only Irish University in the region. Licensed to educate and graduate a quota of 120 undergraduate medical students per year, students spend their first 2 ½ years in Dublin at either RCSI or UCD and then return to RUMC to complete the final 2 ½ years of their studies. RUMC has over 1800 alumni who graduated with a National University of Ireland (NUI) degree.


Professor Whitford says:” It is a privilege and an honour to be able to take over the leadership of RUMC at this time in its history with nearly 25 years of strong and steady growth. I am excited at the opportunity to further develop RUMC in the next chapter of its development. My main emphasis will be to further increase the quality of the university in order to provide the best possible student learning and living experience.”

On behalf of UCD and RCSI, we are delighted to welcome David as our new President and CEO. His expertise in the international higher education arena, in Malaysia and beyond, is very impressive and opportune as we approach the 25th anniversary of the foundation of RUMC. Furthermore, his experience and knowledge of RUMC will provide the foundation for further success and growth over the next 25 years.  Professor Whitford will have the enthusiastic support of staff in RUMC, alongside staff and senior administration in UCD and RCSI, to support him in this new role.

Professor Michael Keane, Chair, RUMC Board. 

School Launches Student Summer Research Awards

111 students started an eight week elective and supervised research project from the beginning of June 2020 with the potential of gaining five ECTS (1) credits towards their degrees in Medicine, Radiography, Biomedical Engineering, Veterinary Medicine and BHLS (Biomedical Health and Life Sciences). These laboratory, clinical and patient-advocate projects take place in UCD, an affiliated hospital or at one of the School of Medicine partner institutions abroad. Participating students will complete the SSRA programme through poster and oral presentations which are adjudicated by a committee of Principal Investigators from across the School and beyond. The students include 40 medicine, 42 GEM (Graduate Entry Medicine), three radiography, three Biomedical Engineering, four Veterinary Medicine, eight VGEM (Veterinary Medicine Graduate Entry) and two BHLS students.


Speaking about the launch of the SSRA programme, Professor Peter Doran, Associate Dean for Research, Innovation and Impact, UCD School of Medicine said ‘This programme invites all of our undergraduate students to engage in research practice at the earliest stage of their career in tandem with our commitment to fostering a culture of enquiry and investigation across the School. Participation provides students with invaluable experience in investigative medical science and sets the foundations for life-long learning and future careers as world clinician-researchers.’


This year UCD students from 12 countries, including Ireland will be completing research within the SSRA programme and will be assigned to laboratory, clinical and patient-advocate settings in Ireland and partner institutions, where they will work with PIs (Principal Investigators) and Scientists. Some of the partner institutions where SSRA programme students have been placed in previous years include the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas and Texas Children’s Hospital, Medical College of Wisconsin and Hospice Africa Uganda. This year, despite the COVID-19 related restrictions, students will be working remotely on many international projects and SSRA project work will be completed at the University of Calgary, Dana-Faber Cancer Institute, Toronto General Hospital and the Cancer Institute of Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research.


Reflecting on their experiences of participating on the 2019 SSRA programme, some of the undergraduates said;

·         I started off my research journey on the SSRA programme with a view to getting a taste of what research is like. I am glad that I participated in the programme because I have learnt so much from my involvement in the projects

·         I truly believe that this experience has been a landmark for me. I have gained insight and understanding into the field of paediatric oncology, enhanced my practical research skills and development as a scientist and also have gained exposure to the medical and research environment

·         I cannot express enough how grateful and privileged I feel to have been selected for this wonderful, career-defining placement

·         I would recommend this opportunity to anyone who is considering supplementing their future career with molecular or biochemical research of any kin

·         It felt very gratifying knowing that the work you do contributes to further understanding and maybe one day changing the way people with COPD are treated

·         I worked in in the area of circadian biology which was interesting as it is a relatively young field and thus presents an opportunity for significant amount of lateral thinking and is exciting due to the sheer opportunity available as so much of the detail of the molecular clock remains to be elucidated.


Following their SSRA programme placement, each student submits an abstract and competes for the SSRA Gold Medal.


The UCD School of Medicine, as one of the Ireland’s leading medical schools, offers more than 60 undergraduate, graduate, research and professional programmes which are delivered by specialist staff across an extensive network of academic and clinical locations. The School also represents a community of researchers, scientists, clinicians, students and graduates, committed in its dedication to society and determined in its mission to improve the lives and the health of our patients. The School teaches, researches and delivers healthcare in Ireland and across the world. Please see the School of Medicine website.


(1)      ECTS - European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System

Radiography Conferring Ceremony

100+ new radiographers and practitioners in diagnostic imaging donned caps and gowns to graduate virtually from UCD School of Medicine today

Minister for Health highlights challenging frontline position of Radiographers during pandemic and their integral role in shaping future healthcare service

(Issue Monday 15th June 2020 @ 10am) The UCD School of Medicine is delighted to confer 50 graduates today with BSc Radiography degrees and 55 MSc graduates from the School’s Computed Tomography, MRI and Ultrasound programmes, together with one PhD graduate. In line with COVID-19 related restrictions, the ceremony which is always one of the high points of the School’s calendar, is taking place as a virtual event.

Opening the Conferring Ceremony, Professor Louise Rainford, Associate Dean and Head of Section, Radiography and Diagnostic Imaging, School of Medicine, UCD congratulated the graduates and acknowledged the celebration of their academic achievements and recognition of their clinical training. Professor Rainford also gave the graduates a warm welcome to the radiography profession and to the global community of radiographers who have trained at the UCD School of Medicine to practice, competent and safe diagnostic imaging with a strong understanding of their role in the wider healthcare context and their contribution as part of a multi-disciplinary healthcare team.

Professor Rainford went on to say “The Class of 2020 all now play their role and apply their skills by entering directly into the health system as the world is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Our professional colleagues who have completed their MSc in Computerised Tomography, MRI and Ultrasound will also continue their frontline clinical work in partnership with the newly qualified radiographers.”

Also addressing the graduates, Simon Harris TD, Minister for Health said “Radiographers are always at the front line of the health service but are even more so during the COVID1-9 pandemic as they provide imaging services to so many patients that come through our hospital doors. During this crisis, the chest x-ray has been the critical examination that our hospitals carry out to assess the healthcare status of our COVID-19 patients.”

“I would like to thank you all for the role you have played in this crisis day in and day out. I am accurately aware of the challenging position that you bravely place yourselves in and for taking on these positions at such an important time in our country. I also really want to retain you in the Irish healthcare system and I want you to know that you are staring your career at a daunting but exciting time for the Irish health service and globally for our health services. You are graduating a time when we are shaping the future of the health of our nation. All of you are more than up to the challenge. Please stay the course. There are better and brighter days ahead for our country” continued Minister Harris.

Charlotte Beardmore Vice-President, European Federation of Radiographer Societies who also addressed the students said “Welcome to the international and European community of radiographers, representing over 120,000 radiographers. You are a talented group of students who have studied hard throughout your rigorous academic and clinical programme. Our daily work is full of uncertainties but the skills within your portfolio will support you throughout your career and please capture every opportunity to develop professionally and remember that to care for another human being is an honour.”

The Virtual Conferring Ceremony will be available for live viewing on Monday 15th June at 1400 IST via

Other speakers at the Virtual Conferring Ceremony include; 

  • Professor Andrew Deeks, President, UCD 
  • Professor Cecily Kelleher, College Principal, UCD College of Health and Agricultural Sciences 
  • Dean Harper, President, IIRRT (Irish Institute of Radiography and Radiation Therapy) 
  • Laura Lannigan, UCD BSc Radiography Class of 2020, Final Year Student Representative

The UCD School of Medicine, as one of the Ireland’s leading medical schools, offers more than 60 undergraduate, graduate, research and professional programmes which are delivered by specialist staff across an extensive network of academic and clinical locations. The School also represents a community of researchers, scientists, clinicians, students and graduates, committed in its dedication to society and determined in its mission to improve the lives and the health of our patients. The School teaches, researches and delivers healthcare in Ireland and across the world.


To set up an interview and/ or to request footage from the Conferring Ceremony, please contact Jane Curtin, Marketing and Communications Manager, UCD School of Medicine. Tel.: 087 938 0779

Special Journal Edition Dedicated to the Mental Health Impact of COVID-19

The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland have launched a special edition of its official scientific journal, Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine (IJPM), collating over 40 articles documenting the impact of COVID-19 on mental health in society and the delivery of mental health services since the pandemic took hold. This special edition has been edited by Professor Fiona McNicholas, UCD Full Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Associate Professor Blánaid Gavin, UCD Associate Clinical Professor.  Covering perspectives from several countries across multiple disciplines and healthcare settings this unique edition has open access and is freely available to all.

Key areas covered include the mental health impact of COVID-19 on frontline healthcare and other workers, the extent of existing and new mental illness morbidity, and the mental health consequences of unemployment, lockdown and other COVID-19 restrictions. The journal covers the swift innovative response by services, including widespread adaptation of tele-psychiatry, what we have learnt from previous pandemics and the necessity to adequately plan for post pandemic mental health provision. Individual international personal perspective pieces are included from front line workers around the globe.

“As key experienced professionals and leaders in psychiatry and service provision for mental illness, this special edition with its richness of expertise, perspectives, and practical innovations, should be very useful to our policy and healthcare leaders as well as health professionals”

notes College President, Dr William Flannery.

“The wealth of invaluable and varied experiences, reflections and observations in one edition will serve many in Ireland from allied health professionals to policy makers, educators, government and the general public”

The mental health impact of this pandemic is as yet unknown, but the World Health Organisation has urged countries to prepare for the psychological and mental illness consequences which are expected to be substantial and long term. The College believe that this edition will be informative for developing and resourcing services and technologies as the mental health consequences of the pandemic become clearer.

IJPM editor, Dr John Lyne explains,

“The special issue brings a unique perspective to our understanding of how COVID-19 is impacting not only mental health services but also many other elements of our society.  There has been an overwhelming response from many mental health providers to contribute to this special edition with the desire for rapid innovation and service development clearly evident throughout.”

Commenting further he said,

“The potential to improve population mental health in the months and years ahead by adequately resourcing mental health service reform cannot be understated. It is essential that policymakers and healthcare leaders work collaboratively with frontline medical professionals along with patients and their families.”

Prof Fiona McNicholas guest editor highlights the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on front line health care workers (HCW), currently representing 1/3 of all confirmed cases.

“Work-related stress disproportionally affects HCW linked to excessive workloads, working in emotionally charged environments and where demand outweighs capacity. COVID-19 represents a perfect storm where all of these factors coalesce, with the added surety that HCW are at risk of infection and transmission to others, not helped by an experience (at least initially) of reduced access to adequate PPE.’

Lessons from SARS highlight the risks to psychological wellbeing associated with social distancing, by virtue of infection control, quarantine, and deployment to new teams and having a family, both of which were more likely to lead to adverse outcomes.

Prof McNicholas acknowledges that

“Healthcare Workers experience a conflict between their duty of care to their patients and colleagues, and their role as parents or carers”.  By nature, Healthcare Workers cope by assuming more personal responsivity, prioritize work over other replenishing activities, and are less likely to seek supports.

Prof McNicholas added that 

‘”to ensure optimum service provision we must avoid a ‘second hit‘ to the health service brought about by HCW sick leave, and ensure that we prioritize their mental health wellbeing and offer robust and accessible mental health supports.’

Non clinical front line workers such as an Gardaí Siochana are also at increased risk and have played a consistently high profile role in this crisis. There is urgent need to develop an understanding of how we can assist front-line workers such as police and healthcare staff, and their families, who are potentially very vulnerable to mental health effects of COVID-19.

The College, and other stakeholders in Ireland have consistently called for not just the review of A Vision for Change to be published but sufficient budgets to be put in place which must now urgently take into account post Covid demands and requirements for mental health secondary and tertiary services and community supports. 

Dr Blánaid Gavin, guest editor, highlights the principle of reciprocity, the necessity of research and the targeting of much needed resources:

“The ethical principle of reciprocity holds that if a society demands that individuals withdraw their liberties for the common good, then individuals must be provided with adequate psychological support to discharge that obligation. Policymakers therefore must strongly support a coordinated national research programme to help us understand the psychological impact that the lockdown has had on vulnerable groups especially those with pre-existing psychiatric illness. Children and teenagers who fall within this cohort are especially vulnerable to the impact of prolonged lack of access to supports, school and social outlets.”

Dr Gavin added that:

“Given that we know from previous crises that most of the population will be resilient and emerge without long-term psychological consequences, it is imperative that resources are appropriately directed to those most likely to experience psychiatric morbidity arising from the pandemic. Much has been discussed and written in recent months about the need to ensure mental wellbeing during this crisis. The question is whether we as a society will respond to the mental illness consequences of this pandemic with parity of resources as for the other medical consequences. This is the true litmus test as to how we as a society view mental illness.

Online Special Edition link here.  A print version is planned for September.

UCD takes Leading Role in €16m International Obesity Research Project

SOPHIA (Stratification of Obese Phenotypes to Optimize Future Obesity Therapy), a new €16 million EU and industry supported international research consortium was recently launched. Professor Carel Le Roux, Director Metabolic Medicine lab, Diabetes Complications University College Dublin and Conway Fellow, speaks about the international research consortium that aims to improve Obesity Treatment and change the narrative around Obesity.