Women in medicine: Mary Horgan and Dorothy Stopford Price

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The Women in medicine project showcases a number of today’s leading female clinicians and the women from the history of medicine who have inspired them.

Professor Mary Horgan is the first female president of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in its over 350-year history. She is consultant physician in infectious diseases at Cork University Hospital, and dean of the school of medicine at University College Cork.

Originally from Kerry in the Republic of Ireland, Mary graduated from University College Dublin in 1986. She was awarded her MD in 1995, became a member of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in 1988, and a fellow in 1997.

Among numerous other roles, Mary was formerly a board member of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service and previously chaired the Council of Deans of Medical Schools.

Professor Horgan currently serves on the board of the Health Products Regulatory Authority and Mercy University Hospital, Cork, and is a member of the governing body of University College Cork.

Dr Dorothy Stopford Price pioneered BCG vaccination in Ireland in the 1930s. Her work was pivotal in ending the Irish tuberculosis epidemic in the mid-20th century, and saved the lives of thousands of children and young adults.

Mary Horgan on her inspiration Dorothy Stopford Price

Dr Dorothy Stopford Price (1890–1954) was a revolutionary physician who fought for Ireland to be free from British rule and tuberculosis.

Dorothy Stopford Price had an eclectic education, studying the social sciences, and gaining the right to a place at the Royal College of Art in London. She instead chose medicine, enrolling at University College Dublin at the age of 25 and qualifying, as both doctor and midwife, in 1921.

Dorothy’s medical training coincided with momentous events in Irish history, including the First World War, the Easter Rising of 1916, the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918–19 and the ongoing war of independence. In her first role, as a doctor at a dispensary in Kilbrittain, County Cork, Dr Stopford Price became actively involved in the fight for independence. She provided practical, and sometimes medical, support for the cause through to the formation of the Irish Free State.

Returning to Dublin in 1923, Dorothy began research into tuberculosis and the (then controversial) BCG vaccination. She became convinced that only a mass vaccination programme could reduce the devastating effects of the disease.

Throughout the 1940s, in the face of religious objections and political machinations, Dorothy led an ultimately successful campaign for vaccination. She was appointed first president of the Irish National BCG Committee in 1949, making the country the last in Europe to institute such a programme.

Thanks to Dr Stopford Price’s efforts, the epidemic was conquered, thousands of lives were saved and tuberculosis was eventually all but eradicated in the Republic of Ireland.