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

History of the Department

The Department's birth coincided with Ireland's growing involvement in international aid. 

The Government's Agency for Personnel Service Overseas (APSO) was created in 1974; other major Irish international development NGOs (Concern, Goal, Trocaire) also began at that period, and the RCSI Department of Tropical Medicine became a critical advisory resource for them. Collaborative links with religious organisations were also fostered. A Travel Health Centre, offering a full range of inoculations, was soon established, in co-operation with the missionary health programme in Drogheda.

Association with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

The first involvement with the Liverpool School dates back to the early 1950's when Professor Tom Davey, the Professor of Tropical Hygiene who was born in Belfast, set up a one-day programme lecturing on the major tropical parasitic diseases and their control. This continued on a yearly basis uninterruptedly until his retirement and his successor, Professor Tom Wilson, who was also born in Belfast continued the involvement of the Department of Tropical Hygiene with the College and extended the course to two days instead of one.

This went on until Professor Kevin M. Cahill took over the Department in 1969 and the emphasis then became clinically oriented, rather than on epidemiology, prevention and control. Professor Herbert Gilles also joined the Department in 1969 as Visiting Professor.

Dr Robert Collis

A humane and inspiring paediatrician, a graduate of Trinity and a member of the national rugby team – founded the first Paediatric Unit at the Rotunda in the late 1930s. He was a social activist and was appalled by the poverty of then 'dear old dirty Dublin'.

As World War II began he joined the Red Cross and was the first physician to enter Belsen Concentration Camp. He left Ireland after the war and became the Dean and Professor of Paediatrics in four Nigerian medical centres. He influenced Christy Brown and his mother to develop his skills. This has been made into a powerful film My Left Foot where the character of the inspiring doctor is played by Fiona Shaw.

Previous lecturers

Professor Kevin M. Cahill Head of the Department from 1969 - 2004. Professor of Clinical Tropical Medicine and Molecular Parasitology at New York University Medical School, Director of the Tropical Disease Center at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York, Senior Clinical Consultant to the United Nations and to numerous foreign governments. He is University Professor and Director of The International Humanitarian Affairs Program at Fordham University, New York and Chief Medical Advisor for Counter Terrorism in the New York Police Department (NYPD).


Professor Herbert M. Gilles
The Late Professor Herbert Gilles, Visiting Professor in the Department, served as Consultant with the World Health Organisation, and as Visiting Professor of Public Health in Malta. Professor Gilles had a long-term relationship with this Department, having been the Distinguished International Health Lecturer in 1987 and having served as External Examiner on numerous occasions in the past forty years. In 2004 he was made an Officer of the Order of Merit for his contribution to Maltese medicine and on June 11th 2005 Queen Elizabeth awarded the prestigious CMG (Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George) for his outstanding work overseas.

Dr Fr Robert J. MacCabe
Lecturer in the Department from 1985 - 2010. He completed a major book on health and disease in Turkana which was published in 2009.  He operated a mobile unit from a base near Lokitaung, Kenya until his death in 2010. 

Dr Elizabeth A. Gallagher
Medical Director of the Travel Health Centre, the largest clinic of its type in Ireland from 1992 - 2010.

Dr William O'Brien
Senior Lecturer in Tropical Medicine in the Department from 1985 - 1992. He worked in tropical medicine in the Sudan, West Africa and South East Asia. Previous appointments included Professor of Tropical Medicine at the Royal Medical College, and Director of Medicine and Consulting Physician to the British Army.

Dr Joseph Barnes
A world-renowned diagnostician and clinician. He has worked in leprosy hospitals and refugee centres throughout Africa and Asia. He was first appointed as a House Surgeon at the Mater Hospital in1938. After a year at the Mater, he was appointed as the sole medical doctor in a two hundred bed missionary hospital in rural Nigeria. Shortly his dermatologic skills were recognized and his work in leprosy control and therapy began. For the next two decades he practiced as a leprotologist in various parts of West Africa before returning as Consultant Dermatologist at the Mater Hospital. Throughout the next quarter century, in times of international crisis, he was in Biafra, The Congo, South East Asia with the boat refugees, working for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and then he went on to India and the Lebanon. Upon his retirement from the Mater in 1983 Dr Barnes was appointed as a Distinguished Lecturer in the Department until 1989.

Dr David Fegan
Lecturer in Tropical Medicine in the Department from 1993 - 1994. He is an RCSI graduate who qualified in 1978. He subsequently acquired his MRCP, DCH and D.OBS and MSc in Clinical Tropical Medicine. He has worked in South America, the South Pacific, West Africa and as a general physician in the Eastern Regional Hospital in Nepal.

Dr Arthur Jackson
Clinical lecturer in the Department from July 2010 - June 2011. Specialist registrar in Infectious Diseases and General Medicine since 2005. He graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, in 2001 and is a member of the RCPI since 2004. In 2005 he received a Diploma in Tropical Medicine & Hygiene from the Gorgas Institute in Lima, Peru. Between 2008 and 2010 he ran a clinical trial on HIV-related cryptococcal meningitis therapy in Malawi, Africa, leading to various peer-reviewed publications.

Mr Malcolm Guy
Malcolm's first appointment was to the technical staff at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He went on to work at the Zoological Society of London, the Radcliffe Infirmary Oxford and then to run the teaching laboratories at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He has travelled widely in the tropics. After three years in the Gambia, Malcolm taught Medical Parasitology and laboratory diagnosis on a part-time basis at RCSI until March 2014.

Mrs Frances Guy
Frances began her career in laboratory technology in the Histopathology Department at the London Hospital, Whitechapel. Four years later she moved to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where she met husband Malcolm. When the children went to University, Frances worked at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine before going to the Gambia for three years. Frances undertook practical classes in Medical Parasitology at RCSI on a part-time basis until March 2014.

Ms Kate Golden
Ms Kate Golden is a Nutritionist with Concern, which is a non-governmental, international, humanitarian organisation dedicated to the reduction of suffering and working towards the ultimate elimination of extreme poverty in the world's poorest countries. Treatment of malnutrition and prevention of undernutrition are key areas of Concern's work and Concern employs a number of experienced masters level nutrition advisors to provide technical support to their 25 country programmes particularly in the areas of planning, monitoring and evaluation and emergency response.

Dr Eoghan De Barra Lecturer in Tropical Medicine in the Department from 2011 - 2014. He is an RCSI graduate who qualified in 2004. He subsequently acquired his MRCP in 2006. He has worked in South Africa and is now based in the UK.

International health lectures

  • International Health Lecture 1986 (1) - 1998 (14) were incorporated in a book - The Open Door - Health and Foreign Policy at the RCSI published in 1999 and available from the Department.
  • Frontiers of Tropical Medicine 5/11/1986 - Dr F. Klipstein
  • Recent Advances in Malaria 2/11/1987 - Professor Herbert Gilles
  • Parasitic Psychoses 6/10/1988 - Dr Rodney Jung
  • A World Besotted Traveller 26/9/1989 - Dr Kenneth Warren
  • Medicine in the third world and in the West - some interrelationships 30/10/1990 - Professor Alan Woodruff
  • Health and the New World Order 1/10/1991 - The Honorable Cyrus Vance
  • The Changing Roles of N.G.O's 28/9/1992 - Fr Angus Finucane
  • A Framework for Survival 8/11/1993 - Lord David Owen
  • A World in Turmoil: the Imperative of Prevention 7/11/1994 - Mr Jan Eliasson
  • The Healing Process and Peace 6/11/1995 - Mr John Hume
  • Rabies a Hundred Years after Pasteur 23/9/1996 - Professor David Warrell
  • Peace Keeping in the Post Cold Ward era 22/9/1997 - Mr Boutros Boutros-Ghali
  • Health and Foreign Policy 25/6/1998 - Professor Kevin M. Cahill
  • Neurology and the Soul 29/10/1998 - Dr Oliver Sacks
  • Making a new life in Kosovo 1/11/1999 - Ms Vanessa Redgrave
  • The Unique Instability of Irish Demography 26/10/2000 - Dr Garret Fitzgerald
  • The Whole Thing: on the Good of Poetry 5/11/2001 - Professor Seamus Heaney
  • The Head Image: Notes on Painting & Awareness 14/11/2005 - Mr Louis le Brocquy
  • Doctors Without Borders to Patients Without Borders 10/10/2006 - Dr Bernard Kouchner