RCPI marks 40-year anniversary of Faculty of Pathology with new collection

The book recounts the role of pathologists in responding to the growing needs of the healthcare sector, most recently throughout the Covid pandemic

The Royal College of Physicians has released a new book: Faculty of Pathology 1981 – 2021: A History of the Faculty and Pathologists in Ireland – a retrospective of the profession.

Professor Katy Keohane – who put the collection together during a Covid lockdown period, with the support of the editorial board, Sean O’Briain, Harriet Wheelock and Louise Burke – was on hand to address an audience at the RCPI’s Kildare Street premises on Thursday, to mark the book’s launch.

With the founding fellows ‘pretty much’ gone, Keohane and her colleagues decided to put together the history, she said. “Looking around at the vintage pathologists, though most of us are fairly healthy, we thought some of us may not be around in 2031, or our memories would be deficient. So, we decided to collect the information, so that it would be at least useful for the future.”

The history discussed in the book is split into two halves – the first and second 20-year periods of pathology in Ireland, starting with the founding of Faculty of Pathology by the Medical Practitioners Act of 1978.

Faculty of Pathology 1981 – 2021: A History of the Faculty and Pathologists in Ireland

Before Professor Keohane’s talk, former State Pathologist and author Dr Marie Cassidy gave a remote lecture titled ‘Reeling in the Years’, exploring the history of forensic pathology, beginning with the first recorded murder: Cain killing his brother Abel. She then discussed origins of modern pathology, which is rooted in the European cholera epidemic of the 1830s.

“In the early 1800s there were sweeping changes to death investigations,” Dr Cassidy highlighted. And that included the coroner being given the power to tell doctors to examine the deceased: the forensic pathologist – with a small f – was born.”

Afterwards, acting Chief State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan spoke about the future of the profession in Ireland, as well as some of the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

As with the cholera outbreak of the 1830s, “Covid highlighted the usefulness of autopsy as a medical learning tool” Mulligan said. “It also made everybody in Ireland realise what a complex beast autopsy reports are. With everyone involved, from the coroners to the pathologists, to the local authorities, to the HSE, to various other people who, unless you sat down and thought about it, you wouldn’t think were involved in the autopsy service.”

The book is available to purchase from the RCPI store. A limited number of signed copies are available.

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