Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

First Irish-trained Physician Associates graduate at RCSI Higher Degree Conferring Ceremony

30 May 2018

Pioneering physician, oncologist, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee to receive RCSI Honorary Doctorate Degree

RCSI’s 2018 May Conferring ceremonies will come to a conclusion today with 54 candidates graduating with Higher Degrees at a ceremony taking place in the College Hall of 123 St Stephen’s Green. 

Among those being conferred are Ireland’s first ever cohort of Physician Associate students. While the Physician Associate role has grown rapidly internationally, it is a new healthcare profession to Ireland. RCSI is the first higher education institute in Ireland to offer an MSc in Physician Associate Studies. 

Graduating from the School of Postgraduate Studies there are four Master of Science (MSc) by research candidates, six Doctor of Medicine (MD) graduates, 28 Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) graduates and one Master of Surgery (MCh) graduate. The candidates have carried out cutting-edge studies in research areas including cancer research; neuroscience; drug development; regenerative medicine; and population health. Their research will contribute to our understanding of a range of conditions including breast cancer, preeclampsia, epilepsy, HIV and cystic fibrosis.

From the School of Pharmacy, nine candidates will be conferred with degrees of Master of Pharmacy (MPharm).

Two special awards will be conferred at today’s ceremony. Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee, a pioneering physician, oncologist and author who has redefined the public discourse on human health, medicine and science, will receive an Honorary Doctorate of RCSI. He is best known for his books, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which earned him the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, and The Gene: An Intimate History.

At the same ceremony, Professor Michael Solomon, RCSI alumnus and Honorary Fellow, will be awarded a Degree of Doctor of Medicine (DMed) on Published Work by the National University of Ireland (NUI). DMed is the highest qualification awarded by NUI, signifying scholarship of international distinction and the award will be made to Professor Solomon for his work ‘Clinical Trials in Surgery: determining feasibility, preferences, equipoise and performance of trials in minimally invasive colorectal surgery’. 

Commending the graduating class, Professor Cathal Kelly, CEO/Registrar, RCSI said, ‘I would like to congratulate every one of the 54 graduates who will get their postgraduate higher degrees today. Their work and dedication contributes so much to RCSI being a centre of excellence in world-class healthcare education, research and innovation. I wish them all the best in their future careers, whether that be in research or clinical practice.’

‘It is with great honour that we present a profoundly influential voice in the scientific community, Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee, with an RCSI honorary doctorate. Dr Mukherjee’s groundbreaking studies into the composition and behaviour of cancer cells have pushed the boundaries of modern medicine. His extraordinary career is an inspiration to our graduates on their conferring day as they embark on their careers as clinicians and researchers with the goal of leading the world to better health, just as Dr Mukherjee is doing.’

Commenting on the first graduating cohort of Physician Associates, Professor Kelly, said: ‘The Physician Associate role was introduced in the US more than 50 years ago and there are now more than 110,000 American PAs employed across a wide range of healthcare settings. In the UK, the first PA studies programme was introduced in 2008, with an intake of just 43 students across three schools. Today there are more than 30 programmes and almost 300 qualified PAs. Judging from the experience of the UK's NHS, it is predicted that demand for qualified PAs will quickly grow in Ireland and RCSI is delighted to be at the forefront of this exciting new profession’.

About Physician Associates

Physician Associates (PAs) are highly skilled healthcare professionals who work as a member of a medical team in a wide variety of workplaces including all types of hospital and surgical care, GP practices and community health services. PAs support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients and are trained to perform a number of roles including taking medical histories, performing examinations, making diagnoses and analysing test results. Crucially, from the patient’s perspective, PAs can provide a continuity of care that is frequently absent in other healthcare roles. 

The MSc in Physician Associate Studies is a two year, full-time intensive programme, open to applicants who already hold a Level 8 health science or science-related degree. In January 2018, RCSI welcomed the third cohort of PA students and applications are currently being accepted for January 2019.

RCSI Physician Associate graduates have been employed across Beaumont Hospital, the Mater Private and the Galway Clinic. 

About Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee

Siddhartha Mukherjee is a pioneering physician, oncologist, and author who has redefined our public discourse on human health, medicine and science. A profoundly influential voice in the scientific community, he is best known for his books, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which earned him the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, and The Gene: An Intimate History which won international awards and was recognized by The Washington Post and The New York Times as one of the most influential books of 2016. His published works exhibit an outstanding literary skill that has left an indelible mark on our culture, as The Emperor of All Maladies has been adapted into a documentary by filmmaker Ken Burns, and was included among Time magazine’s 100 best nonfiction books of the past century.

Dr Mukherjee’s achievements as a writer and educator build upon his career as a renowned medical scholar. His groundbreaking studies into the composition and behavior of cancer cells have pushed the boundaries of modern medicine. His innovative research signals a paradigm shift in cancer pathology, and has enabled the development of treatments that reach beyond current pharmaceutical models toward new biological and cellular therapies. Serving as a professor of medicine at Columbia University and as a staff cancer physician at the university’s medical center, Dr. Mukherjee generates hope for countless patients and families around the world, while revolutionizing our blueprint for healing. He writes for the New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and many other publications, has received numerous awards for his scientific work, has published his original research and opinions in journals such Nature, Cell and the New England Journal of Medicine, and lives in New York City with his wife and daughters. 

About RCSI

RCSI is ranked among the top 250 (top 2%) of universities worldwide in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2018) and its research is ranked first in Ireland for citations. It is an international not-for-profit health sciences institution, with its headquarters in Dublin, focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health worldwide. RCSI is a signatory of the Athena SWAN Charter