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Biographical entry O'Malley, Eoin (1919 - 2007)

FRCS 1984; MB BCh NUI Dublin 1942; MCh NUI 1947; Hon MD NUI; FRCSI 1947; FACS; FRCSEd; FRACS.

5 April 1919
Galway, Ireland
18 April 2007
Cardiac surgeon


Eoin O’Malley was a cardiac surgeon and a past president of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. He was born on 5 April 1919 in Galway, where his father was professor of surgery. From Clongowes Wood College he went to medical school, at first in Galway and later at University College, Dublin, where he proved himself a formidable debater and rugby football player, and won prizes and distinctions in every subject. He completed house appointments in the Mater Misericordiae Hospital and went on to specialise in surgery at Southend General Hospital and the Lahey Clinic in Boston. He was appointed to the consultant staff of the Mater Hospital as a general and cardiac surgeon in 1950 and became professor of surgery in 1958.

At first an all round general surgeon, he was one of the first to specialise in cardiac surgery and succeeded in setting up a specialist unit, which was later named after him. As a teacher he was noted as a skilled and thoughtful lecturer and a sympathetic examiner. As a trainer of young surgeons he took care to see that his pupils expanded their vision by going abroad to other centres for clinical experience and research. Indeed, to encourage his colleagues to travel, he founded the Irish Surgical Travellers Club. Together with other Irish professors of surgery, Eoin organised a national surgical training programme, a planned rotation scheme, entry to which was to be by competitive examination.

He soon became involved in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, was elected to its council in 1965 and became president in 1983. His presidency was marked by the celebration of the bicentenary of the college.

His interests outside surgery included fishing, meteorology, literature, theatre, history and politics. Eoin married Una O’Higgins, a young solicitor, in 1952. Una was the daughter of the Irish national hero Kevin O’Higgins, the hard man of the liberation movement and first minister of justice in the new republic, who was assassinated when Una was only five months old. Later Una became a nationally celebrated poet, whose verse sang of peace and forgiveness. Una was a prime mover in the reconciliation movement and a founder of the Glencree Reconciliation Centre. They had six children, of whom Kevin has followed his father and grandfather into surgery.

A man of great dignity, utterly without bombast or arrogance, Eoin was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and distinctions, including the honorary Fellowship of our College.

Enid Taylor

Sources used to compile this entry: [RCSI 2007].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England