Global Clinical Trial for COVID-19

Led by Prof Alistair Nichol, the Health Research Board is mobilising rapid support for a COVID-19 clinical trial among Irish patients in Intensive Care Units as part of global research efforts to tackle the pandemic.

The trial will start enrolling COVID-19 patients on the island of Ireland at the start of April 2020 and will test interventions for COVID-19 in critically ill patients, capture the outcomes and analyse data across an international network in a global effort to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in Intensive care settings.  The international network comprises clinical investigators in UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.  Rapid data sharing will ensure findings relevant to the COVID-19 outbreak are shared quickly with others working in the area to inform decision making.

Professor Alistair Nichol, UCD Full Professor of Critical Care Medicine at St Vincent’s University Hospital, who is the Irish lead on the trial, explains how it will work and why it is so important.

‘In the 2009, H1N1 pandemic many groups tried to conduct trials in a timely manner, however, our groups and others couldn’t establish a clinical trial in time to respond to the pandemic. So, we designed a new trial called REMAP CAP to recruit in “peacetime” but to be able to convert rapidly in the event of a pandemic, such as COVID-19. This trial will now allow a rapid response which is ready to enrol Irish patients in intensive care units in the first weeks of such a pandemic. This means we can rapidly generate evidence to guide doctor’s decisions on the best treatment for critically ill patients with COVID-19.’

Researchers in Ireland led by Prof Nichol will work with the local network of Clinical Research Facilities and other partners across academia and hospitals to start assessing these potential interventions as quickly as possible.  The COVID-19 aspect of the trial will commence in ICUs in St Vincent’s University Hospital and University Hospital Galway in the next week. Beaumont Hospital have signed contracts and the following hospitals are preparing to be involved soon: Cork University Hospital and University Hospital Limerick as well as the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, with others to follow.

The additional interventions that have been proposed for Covid-19 trials are prioritised by experts brought together by the World Health Organisation in mid-February, and these Covid-19 trial interventions will be rolled out across the international network.

This rapid response is possible because the Health Research Board (HRB) has invested in the Irish Critical Care Clinical Trials Network based at the UCD Clinical Research Centre over the past five years. The HRB will invest a further €400,000 to convert to a COVID-19 trial.

According to Dr Darrin Morrissey, Chief Executive at the HRB,

‘Existing HRB support for this clinical trial network means that Irish researchers can react quickly and activate targeted responses to the Covid-19 outbreak, based on scientific consensus on potential treatments. The speed at which we have been able to respond is only possible because of the incredible work done to date in this network and the collaborations they have established internationally.’

Adapted from a report by the Health Research Board, 31st March 2020.

Sunday Shout Out - Let's Hear it for the Interns

I am a Non-Consultant Hospital Doctor working in St. Vincent's University Hospital.  You are right in that there has been outstanding leadership shown by many of the consultants and people of senior positions all across the hospital.  However, I just wanted to highlight some of the great work being done by some of the people who are a bit more behind the scenes.

One cohort of people whose tireless work often goes unrecognised are the Interns. We often hear a lot about people who are working on the 'frontline' and these are people who truly are.   Like all healthcare workers, they have really been asked to step up over the past few weeks and really are a cohort who are working on the frontline on call on nights etc.

Interns cover so much ground on call, probably the most in the hospital and their work often goes unrecognised. In my career, I have worked in many different hospitals with and for many different doctors. Most would agree that their intern year would be among the most challenging of their career, so adding another layer of difficulty is certainly very challenging.

Three interns in particular who have been particularly admirable in SVUH, have been Dr Laura Kennelly, Dr Emma Lennon and Dr Jenny Kennedy and I know that any members of hospital staff who have worked with them would agree.

They really are leaders at an intern level and are an example to others of how to carry themselves in challenging conditions like this. They have all been going above and beyond stepping up to cover call when other interns have been forced to self-isolate and all bring a sense of energy to their shifts. They all have different career interests, but what they do have in common is a hard working work ethic and drive (and being humble).

Without hard working team members like these, the senior leaders would not be able to lead as effectively as they have been. They show that even 'junior' members can have a great effect on team efficacy and morale.

I really think their hard work should be acknowledged and would be an interesting aspect on Frontline Fridays. 

(We could’nt wait until next Friday as so created a new feature called ‘Shout Out Sunday’!)

It's a pleasure to have work with them in St Vincent's and they are a credit to the teams that they work with.

Being an intern is a unique time in any doctors career. It is a time where we are very malleable and I really think that environments and teams that we are exposed to at this stage can really influence the doctors that we become and how we will subsequently treat juniors going forward. 

Furthermore, interns have a very shared experience which is unique and only lasts for a brief period of time.  Following intern year, we all pursue different career paths so your intern year is the only experience that all doctors go through similarly. Myself and some of my colleagues look back on our intern year and compare it to where we are now with the differing paths we have taken, fondly. Thinking back on those long days on call, in scrubs for the first time, helping each other through hard days. The enthusiasm these interns have is admirable and would be lovely to capture the same. 

It's also worth noting that the NCHD's all know each other quite well by this stage of the year, and intern's meet a lot of the nursing staff on call. The students often know them quite well as they would be the primary point of contact when the students are on the team.

I think highlighting their hard work is certainly worthwhile. Thanks you for recognising the same! I remember doing innumerable thankless jobs on as an intern so I now appreciate the hard work interns often do that nearly always goes unacknowledged.  

Thanks for spreading positivity and highlighting everyone’s hard work during this difficult time.  Seeing the great work that the teams affiliated with the UCD School of Medicine is really morale building. 

Anonymous 'Just Another NCHD'*

(* We'd like to say a sincere thanks to the author who is quite clearly not "just another NCHD" but rather a doctor who shows leadership, empathy and respect for their more junior colleagues.)

We know that there will be many heroes of this emergency and we hope to profile some of them in the coming weeks.  We’d be happy to receive your nominations and testimonials for inclusion in our #FrontlineFriday.  Suggestions to

Frontline Friday - Infectious Diseases

Let’s hear it for our ID Physicians

Our School is privileged to have among our academic and clinical faculty considerable expertise in the clinical management of infectious diseases and many of our staff lead active research programmes.

Led by Professor Paddy Mallon, the UCD Centre for Experimental Pathogen Host Research (CEPHR) has developed from Paddy’s previous HIV Molecular Research Group.  Prof Mallon is UCD Professor of Microbial Diseases based at St Vincent’s University Hospital.  The CEPHR group combines clinical and research staff from both St Vincent’s and the Mater Misericordiae University Hospitals and integrates with the previous UCD Centre for Infectious Diseases based at the National Virus Reference Laboratory.


Prof Paddy Mallon and the SVUH Infectious Disease Team

Many will be familiar with the clear and engaging interviews that Prof Mallon gave to Baz Ashmawy describing the likely progress of the Covid-19 pandemic and the steps that every member of the public can take (social distancing, handwashing, cough etiquette, etc.) to help ‘flatten the curve’.  His colleagues in infectious diseases at St Vincent’s University Hospital also include Dr Eoin Feeney and Dr Cathal O’Broin.

Prof Mallon was previously a member of the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital department of infectious disease medicine which includes consultants Prof Jack Lambert (UCD Full Clinical Professor), Assoc. Prof Gerard Sheehan (UCD Associate Clinical Professor), Assoc. Prof Aoife Cotter and Dr Tara McGinty (UCD Medicine 2006).

Dr Sheehan was the first consultant in infectious disease medicine in Ireland when he took up his consultant post at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.   In the intervening years, he has guided the country through responses to AIDS, and preparations for potential SARS and Ebola outbreaks.  Dr Sheehan set up the National Isolation Unit in 2008 and is leading the fight against Covid-19 at the Mater Hospital24/7.

Another early leader in infectious diseases in Ireland was Prof Mary Horgan (UCD Medicine 1986, MD 1995), President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.  Prof Horgan has used her role and authority to great effect explaining the nature of pandemics and essential public health measures.


The Covid-19 Testing Team at St Michael's Hospital Dublin

One of the first Covid-19 testing hubs established outside of SVUH and MMUH was the centre at St Michael’s Hospital, Dun Laoghaire established by Dr Cathal O’Broin and his colleagues.  In an RTÉ News report, Dr O’Broin offered a very insightful explanation of how these Covid-19 sampling points operate and what the public can present.

These infectious disease consultants are each quick to point out that they are only members of a much larger team of doctors, nurses and other health professionals who are working together to deliver Ireland’s response to Covid-19.  However, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their clinical service and their calm, confidence-inspiring advice.

We know that there will be many heroes of this emergency and we hope to profile some of them in the coming weeks.  We’d be happy to receive your nominations and testimonials for inclusion in our #FrontlineFriday.  Suggestions to

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and Mental Health

In times such as these with the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19), many people are experiencing uncertainty, fear and anxiety. It is important to not only be aware of our physical health during the outbreak, but also to be mindful of our mental health and well-being. There are many resources available in which to gain both helpful information and useful resources to help mind your mental health during this challenging time, some of which are provided below.

It is important to try and retain a regular daily routine as much as is possible. Using media can be a great way of gaining useful information and staying up to date on current events, however it is important to remember to take a break from media and be aware of false news and theories. Stay in contact with family and friends in ways such as video calls, telephone calls, text or email. Eat well, try to keep a good and regular sleep pattern and exercise when possible.

Below is a list of resources for useful information and tips on managing mental health wellbeing during coronavirus. There are resources for parents with advice on how to help both parents and children maintain good mental health during this time, as well as tips on talking to your child about coronavirus. There are resources for mental health professionals regarding the outbreak and mental wellbeing.

In these challenging times it is important we mind ourselves both physically and mentally, remember it is important to talk to someone you trust if you feel afraid, anxious or concerned.

 Stay Safe and Well.

Comprehensive Resources for Children, Parents and Mental Health Professionals

Information for Carers/Parents:

Advice for parents

Keeping you and your family emotionally healthy at home

Talking to you children about Covid-19 (coronavirus)

Talking to children about scary world news

Information video about coronavirus for older children/adults

Information about coronavirus for younger children (primary age)

Information and advice for carers

Coronavirus and our mental health

Tips for social distancing, quarantine and isolation

Managing anxiety and stress

Helping children cope with emergencies

HSE find supports and services website

Information and Supports for Mental Health wellbeing during coronavirus outbreak:

Podcasts and tips to help children with neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions:

Coronavirus and our mental health- taking care of ourselves

Working remotely during covid-19, your mental health and wellbeing

Managing anxiety and stress

Taking care of your emotional health

Helping children cope with emergencies

How to cope if you are feeling anxious about the outbreak

Looking after your mental health while self-isolating video

Mental health and wellness during covid-19 video

Mental health coping strategies

HSE find supports and services website

Documents and information for Mental Health Care Professionals:

Coronavirus and our mental health

Caring for patients during coronavirus- a guide for psychiatrists

Psychological effects of quarantine

Caring for patients mental wellbeing

Caring for critically ill patients with Covid-19

Tips for social distancing, quarantine and isolation

Managing anxiety and stress

UCD Wellcome Trust Strategic Support Fund

The UCD Wellcome Trust Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) is now open and accepting applications for 2 schemes via email to The fund will support research in the biomedical and clinical sciences, and will also directly support research or collaborations within the medical humanities field. In particular, the fund will be used to support initiatives in Personalised & Translational Medicine and One Health.

The following two schemes are open in this round.

1. The Clinical Primer Scheme

€40,000-€60,000 per award is available for up to 12-18 months to support clinical buyout time and associated research costs.

2. The Mid-Career Stimulus and Diversification Scheme

The maximum award under this programme is €141,000 per awardee (€70,500 per annum) for mid-career researchers (7-20 years’ experience post-PhD), which will cover a period of up to 24 months. It can be used to support academic buyout time, research staff salaries and associated research costs, but not the direct salary costs of the applicant.

Application deadline: 5pmThursday, 30th April 2020.

Further details can be found  here . All queries to

Frontline Friday

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D. and Minister for Health, Mr Simon Harris T.D. with Dr Cillian de Gascun, Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory.

Hail to Our Heroes

We are extremely proud of the phenomenal clinical service that all our colleagues in hospitals and general practices across that country are performing in the national response to Covid-19.  From the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan (UCD Medicine 1991), Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronan Glynn and the Health Service Executive’s Chief Clinical Officer, Dr Colm Henry (UCD Medicine 1988) to our medicine interns across the country and all grades in between. 

Our sincere thanks to all doctors, radiographers, paramedics and laboratory scientists as well as to nurses, midwives, physiotherapists from our University, from other Irish Medical Schools and indeed from around the world.  We appreciate the calm, clear and compassionate leadership from our politicians – those in caretaker government and those in opposition - who have distinguished themselves by recognising early the need for the country to mobilise to mitigate the effects of this global health crisis.

The oft maligned managers and administrators are proving their worth by re-organising around our national action plan and in support of frontline carers and their patients.  The wave of voluntary efforts unleashed is impressive as a national statement of solidarity and reminds us of our innate human decency.  The global nature of this pandemic and the nationality diversity among our healthcare professionals makes us all more connected as the world grapples with this coronavirus.

With Thanks to the National Virus Reference Laboratory

It isn’t surprising that much attention has been focused on the UCD National Virus Reference Laboratory based on the UCD Belfield campus.  Led by Dr Cillian de Gascun, this 100+ strong workforce of clinical and laboratory scientists, and their support staff provides a diagnostic and reference service for clinicians investigating viral infections throughout Ireland. The laboratory is affiliated to our School and has provided a virology diagnostic service to the Irish health service for over forty years.

Prior to the current pandemic, NVRL typically performed over 700,000 tests annually, involving some 120 tests for 40 different pathogens and it provides specialist reference services which have been developed as a result of medical and technical expertise built over many years.  As one would expect of a national virology service, it offers its service users accredited tests in line with national and international best practice.


Behind the Trees is NVRL by Sarah McLoughlin ( @McLoughlinSarah)

The NVRL has been awarded accreditation by the Irish National Accreditation Board to undertake schedule of clinical tests.  They were also the nominated World Health Organisation (WHO) national laboratory for the eradication of Polio, national reference laboratory for Measles and Rubella and the national Influenza centre.

The NVRL was the first facility in Ireland to test for the Covid-19 coronavirus although testing has now been extended to other facilities throughout the country.  The initial testing of 300 samples per day during the early weeks of the national emergency is expected to grow rapidly to at least 15,000 per day and the volume of tests performed by NVRL in 2020 will dwarf the cumulative work throughout its 40 year history.

Our sincere thanks to the staff of the National Virus Reference Laboratory for their dedication and critical service during this current pandemic emergency.  We were pleased to see An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D. and Minister for Health, Mr Simon Harris T.D. visit the NVRL this week to personally thank staff for their hard work in the battle to contain Covid-19.  Our thanks also to NVRL Director, Dr Cillian de Gascun for his leadership both at NVRL, for chairing the National Expert Advisory Group on Coronavirus and for his participation in daily media briefings.

Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on countries to ‘test, test, test’ for the Covid-19 virus to allow countries identify, isolate and trace new cases to suppress the virus spread.  Suppression is essential for buying time to develop new treatments and manufacture much-needed equipment.  NVRL are at the forefront of those efforts.


We know that there will be many heroes of this emergency and we hope to profile some of them in the coming weeks.  We’d be happy to receive your nominations and testimonials for inclusion in our #FrontlineFriday.  Suggestions to

Experts from Ireland and the UK deliver stimulating clinical ultrasound programme

Experts from Ireland and the UK deliver stimulating clinical ultrasound programme

Following the success of the previous University College Dublin (UCD) and British Medical Ultrasound Society (BMUS) study days, UCD Radiography & Diagnostic Imaging were delighted to welcome the BMUS team back to Dublin for a fantastic educational event on Saturday, February 29th, 2020. Experts from Ireland and the UK joined to deliver this educational and stimulating programme.

The morning opened with an overview of current developments in ultrasound in Ireland for both general and obstetric sonographers, with Ms. Therese Herlihy (UCD) and Ms. Jane Durkan (Coombe Women and Children’s Hospital, Dublin 8) giving the first presentation.  Ms. Pamela Parker (Hull NHS and President Elect of BMUS) followed with a talk on how to optimize your technology settings to get the best from your machine.  This was followed by three excellent gynaecological ultrasound cases presented by Ms. Frances Glynn (University Hospital Galway), Ms. Clodagh Craven (National Maternity Hospital, Dublin 2) and Ms. Anne McMenamin (St. James’ Hospital, Dublin 8).

A coffee break allowed delegates to chat and explore the latest in ultrasound technology, with machines on show from the leading ultrasound providers in Ireland. After break the delegates got to choose from two streams, the first being obstetrics-related content and the second being general ultrasound topics.

In the obstetrics stream Dr. Nadine Farah (Coombe Women and Children’s Hospital, Dublin 8) spoke about ectopic pregnancy which was followed by a very informative session on gestational trophoblastic disease delivered by Dr. John Coulter (Cork National Maternity Hospital).  Dr. Nóirín Russell (Cork National Maternity Hospital) then explored issues around performing the 11-14 week antenatal scan.  

Concurrently the general session heard very educational sessions on liver imaging, general Doppler use, renal and head and neck ultrasound from Ms. Aine Kelly (St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin 4), Dr. Peter Cantin (Derriford Hospital, UK) and Mr. Gerry Johnson (Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, UK).

At this point the delegates broke for lunch and twenty delegates were offered the opportunity to participate in a hands-on Masterclass in Head and Neck Ultrasound, delivered by a fantastic team led by the BMUS President, Dr. Rhodri Evans (Withybridge General Hospital, UK and BMUS president).

After lunch the general stream received top tips for GI, testicular, thyroid, MSK and lumps and bumps imaging from Dr. Peter Cantin, Ms. Pamela Parker, Prof Rhodri and Ms. Catherine Kirkpatrick (United Lincolnshire Hospital NHS Trust, UK and BMUS development officer).  Meanwhile the obstetrics stream received talks on second trimester anomaly scanning and top tips for cardiac scanning and spotting diagnoses, delivered by Ms. Cecelia Mulcahy (National Maternity Hospital, Dublin 2) and Prof Colin McMahon (Our Lady’s Children Hospital Crumlin, Dublin 12). The last session was delivered by UCD medico-legal barrister, Mr Asim Sheikh, who gave a thought-provoking lecture on medicolegal issues in obstetric ultrasound.

Overall, the day was huge success with a great atmosphere and clear appetite for learning. We look forward to welcoming delegates back to UCD in 2021.

A selection of photographs from this event are available for free download for personal, non-commercial use from our Flickr site.

Coakley Medal for Dissection 2020

Applications are now invited for the James B Coakley Medal for Dissection 2020.

The deadline for return of completed applications for entry to the competition is 5pm, Monday 20th April 2020. Only one entry per candidate is permitted. 

Further details on eligibility and the application process can be found via the following link.

About Prof James B. Coakley

James B. Coakley was a professor of Anatomy in University College Dublin and Professor and Head of the Department of Human Anatomy from 1962 – 1988.  To honour his distinguished career and dedication to anatomy teaching the Coakley Medal is awarded for the best dissection of a given body part.