Professor Tim McDonnell

Presentation of the Irish Thoracic Society Award for Outstanding Contribution to Respiratory Medicine to Professor Tim McDonnell

Professor Tim McDonnell   was presented with the Irish Thoracic Society (ITS) Award for Outstanding Contribution to Respiratory Medicine at the recent ITS Annual Scientific Meeting in Limerick.  A citation, delivered by friend and colleague Professor Charlie Gallagher, recognised Professor McDonnell’s exceptional leadership and dynamism in  improving the care of people with respiratory disease in Ireland.

On graduating from UCD in 1979, Tim spent time as a Senior House Officer and then as a registrar in cardiology before becoming a registrar in respiratory medicine in St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin.  He went on to do a Fellowship in Respiratory and Critical Care, at the University of Colorado in Denver, USA, one of the premier respiratory programmes in America at the time.  There he thrived clinically and was prolific in his contribution to clinical and basic science research in collaboration with other luminaries such as Tom Petty, Michael Iseman and Marvin Schwartz. He was soon recruited to the faculty in Denver but his tenure there was curtailed when a faculty position in Edmonton, Canada beckoned.  There he worked as a respiratory critical care doctor with a research focus on the mechanisms of acute lung injury alongside Garner King one of the leaders in this field.

Prof Gallagher recounted the gruelling workload that Tim faced on his return to Ireland in 1991 to take up the post of Respiratory Consultant in St Vincent’s and St Michael’s Hospitals. Despite this he developed an outstanding clinical service in both hospitals including the establishment of the first Pulmonary Rehabilitation Programme in Ireland.  This remains one of the leading programmes on these islands and continues to thrive under the leadership of Dr Sarah O’Beirne.  Tim also set up a TB service at this time and became a strong proponent of TB care as a core component of respiratory medicine.  He is renowned amongst colleagues for his supportive and collaborative approach. Having established leading edge services in both Pulmonary Rehabilitation and TB he helped countless colleagues develop their own services and improve and standardize the care of patients in these areas. Tim’s excellence as a teacher and role model was also recalled.  As National Speciality Director for Respiratory Medicine from January 2003 to December 2009 he was instrumental in advancing the training of Respiratory Specialist Registrars to make Respiratory Medicine one of the strongest of the RCPI training programmes.

Tim is a strong advocate for treating patients with chronic lung disease in the community through rehabilitation and integrated care and for the important role that patients play in managing their disease and symptoms. He was an ardent supporter  of the development of pulmonary outreach programmes and as the first National Clinical Programme Lead for COPD (2010 -2019) and the National Clinical Programme Lead for Respiratory Medicine (2018-2019) he drove major improvements in the organization and resourcing of care for patients with COPD and other chronic lung diseases. This set the groundwork for the current move to integrated  care hubs and increased resources for respiratory medicine including the appointment of new multidisciplinary and medical posts. As a founder and current Chairperson of COPD Support Ireland his work to advance the care of people living with COPD continues, ensuring the patient voice is front and centre. 

In his closing remarks Prof Gallagher attributed the breadth and depth of Tim’s achievements throughout his career to his outstanding work ethic, his strategic approach,  his renowned collegiality and most of all, his focus on patient wellbeing both individually and at population level.  He concluded that Tim personifies the ethos of the Irish Thoracic Society and the best of Irish Respiratory Healthcare.