Prof Eilis McGovern

Prof Eilis McGovern (UCD Medicine 1978)

President, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Eilis Mc Govern was born in Mount Charles, Co. Donegal. After secondary school at St Louis Convent Monaghan, she studied medicine at UCD where she excelled academically and graduated in 1978 winning the gold medal in surgery and silver medal in medicine.

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 becoming the first female president of Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in its 226 year history. 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.