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RCSI MATTERS
P
rofessor Michael Walsh, who has recently
retired as Head of the Department of
Otolaryngology at RCSI spoke to RCSI Matters
about his 24 years of service to the College and
his longtime commitment to the development
of head and neck surgical oncology services
Professor Walsh was the first member of his family to
pursue a career in medicine. A BSc graduate from UCD in
1973, he got his Fellowship in General Surgery in 1977. He
opted for ENT as his specialty: "ENT offers lots of choices
from a surgical perspective as it has a large array of sub-
specialisations including skull-centred surgery, nose surgery
and facial surgery."
TORONTO RESIDENCY
Professor Walsh spent a year in the Eye and Ear Hospital
and six months in the Richmond Hospital before taking up a
residency in Canada at Toronto General in 1980. "That was
a great experience and I had an opportunity to work with
Professor Peter Alberti who was Head of the Department
of ENT Surgery in Toronto. In fact, at that time, the Toronto
training programme was an acknowledged leader in head
and neck surgical oncology. Another key influence in my
Toronto years was Professor Patrick Gullane, a graduate of
UCG (now NUI Galway), who was Otolaryngologist-in-Chief
at Toronto General."
After three years of minus 27
o
winters in Canada, Professor
Walsh and his wife Mary returned to Dublin, where Professor
Walsh was initially appointed as a consultant to the Eye &
Ear, Sir Patrick Dun's and Monkstown Hospitals. In 1984,
Professor Walsh moved to St James' Hospital, and initiated
head and neck surgical oncology services there.
In 1990, the same year he was appointed Professor of ENT
Surgery at RCSI, Professor Walsh moved from St James' to
Beaumont Hospital where he also sought to develop a head
and neck surgical oncology service. "Thankfully the service in
Beaumont has also progressed very effectively. While serious
challenges remain to be addressed in terms of surgeon
numbers and in terms of funding, it is encouraging to see
that head and neck surgical oncology services are now also
available in the Mater and St Vincent's, as well as St James',
in Dublin, and in South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital,
in Cork. "
BALANCING RESPONSIBILITIES
As RCSI's Head of Department of Otolaryngology, he found
the role demanding but satisfying: "The key is finding the
right balance between your clinical care responsibilities
and your teaching responsibilities. The College has
been very supportive to the development of the Dept of
Otolaryngology. ENT is a crucial part of undergraduate
training, and the evolution of the curriculum has ensured
that it remains relevant to modern healthcare realities."
The biggest changes he's seen during his years with
RCSI? "Change is a constant in the College but the two
developments that have had the greatest impact, in my view,
have been the increasing focus on human factors in medical
education and the efficiencies that the College has achieved
through the expansion of its IT capabilities.
"The way that the curriculum now addresses human factors
such as crisis management, negotiation skills and stress
management is a very significant advance in terms of
medical education. Equally, the College's development of its
IT services, such as its Moodle online learning platform, is a
really valuable tool in dealing with the practical challenges of
teaching and learning."
While he's looking forward to retirement, and the chance
to spend more time on lifelong interests such as art and
Spanish history, he concludes: "I was fortunate to have
the opportunity to work alongside so many wonderful
colleagues and I will always cherish the great rapport and
camaraderie we enjoyed."
Getting the balance right
A lifetime of clinical care and teaching
At the retirement reception for Professor Michael Walsh in November 2014: Professor Arnie Hill, Head of the School of Medicine, RCSI;
Mr. Declan Magee, President, RCSI; Professor Michael Walsh; Professor Hannah McGee, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health
Sciences; and Professor Cathal Kelly, CEO, RCSI.