Barry O' Donnell

(06/09/1926 - 26/11/2019)

Barry O’Donnell (September 6, 1926 – November 26, 2019) was an eminent Irish pediatric surgeon whose career, spanning over several decades, was characterised by innovation, leadership, and an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of children. Barry made a huge impact in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, his dedication spanning an impressive 36 years, during which he became the first fully trained full-time pediatric surgeon in Ireland.

Born in Cork to Michael and Kitty O’Donnell, Barry’s journey into medicine began at University College Cork, where he graduated with hono8rs in 1949. Heeding his father’s advice against journalism or law, he pursued a career in medicine, eventually earning a Master’s in Surgery in 1954. His postgraduate training took him to prestigious institutions such as Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and the Lahey Clinic in Boston, USA, where he honed his skills under the guidance of renowned figures in pediatric surgery.

In 1957, O’Donnell made a significant appointment as a consultant at the newly established Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Dublin. His impact extended beyond Our Lady’s Hospital, with additional appointments at the National Children’s Hospital and the Children’s University Hospital.

A man of many talents, O’Donnell excelled not only in surgery but also in medical politics. His presidency of the Irish Medical Association in 1976 and simultaneous election as President of the British and Canadian Medical Associations showcased his influence and leadership on an international scale. His outspoken and impactful rhetoric made him a figure to be remembered in medical history.

One of O’Donnell’s proudest achievements was co-founding the Children’s Research Centre in 1965, a testament to his commitment to advancing pediatric medicine. His collaboration with Prem Puri in developing the sub-ureteric Teflon injection (STING) procedure for vesico-ureteric reflux earned him the Urology Medal from the American Academy of Pediatrics, a historic recognition as the first non-American pediatric surgeon to receive the honour.

O’Donnell’s personal life was marked by a happy marriage to Mary Leydon in 1959, and they enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership until her passing in 2015. Despite his retirement, he remained active, writing historical texts and continuing his involvement in medical education.
Barry O’Donnell’s legacy lives on in the countless lives he touched through his surgical expertise, research contributions, and leadership in pediatric surgery. His wit, sense of humour, and remarkable achievements make him a figure of inspiration in both the medical community and beyond.

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Connection with area: Pioneering Irish paediatric surgeon who worked at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin