From Dublin to Dublin: Irish Medical Hall of Fame

With our scheduled relocation to Dublin, Texas, we wanted to pay tribute to those famous Irish and Irish-Americans that made massive contributions to healthcare!


In 2005, the Texas legislature declared Dublin the official Irish Capital of Texas, so we'd like to share some of our heritage by showcasing some of our favorite medical professionals and innovators from Ireland, Dr. John Houston, Dr. James McHenry and Dr. Joseph Edward Murray. So from Dublin to Dublin, please enjoy our Irish Medical Hall of Fame.

Sláinte in Irish is translated simply as "Health". It is commonly used as a drinking toast in Ireland.

"I drink to your health when I'm with you, I drink to your health when I'm alone. I drink to your health so often, I'm starting to worry about my own!" ~ Irish Toast

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CLICK HERE FOR "The Irish American Contribution to Surgery" a paper by Theodore X. O'Connell M.D.

Dr. John Houston


John Houston was born in 1802 in Northern Ireland. He was the eldest son of a Presbyterian minister but was adopted by his maternal uncle, Joseph Taylor, who was an army doctor. In 1819 Houston moved to Dublin as apprentice to John Shekleton, a surgeon and curator at the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). Houston completed his apprenticeship 5 years later.

Houston succeeded Shekleton as conservator (curator) at the RCSI museum. In 1830, Houston discovered the transverse folds of the rectum, eponymously known as Houston's valves. In 1834, he published a catalogue of the Museum's normal specimens, followed by a catalogue of pathology specimens in 1840. In 1843, he published a catalogue of the museum specimens at the Park Street School of Medicine.


In 1844, Houston published an illustrated scientific paper in the Dublin Medical Press entitled "On the Microscopic Pathology of Cancer (with a Woodcut)" and is credited with introducing the microscope to Irish medicine. RCSI paid him £150 for his preparation of anatomical specimens. During his 17-year tenure as curator, Houston expanded and catalogued the RCSI museum's extensive specimen collection, described as "one of the most valuable in Europe" by renowned anatomists Friedrich Tiedemann and Jules Germain Cloquet.

Houston had a keen interest in teaching, working as an anatomy demonstrator at RCSI in 1824 and in 1837 taking a position as lecturer in surgery at the Park Street School of Medicine. He was known for his punctuality and was popular among his students. Houston was involved in the construction of the Baggot Street Hospital and was appointed as a surgeon there in 1832. He was also appointed consultant surgeon at St. Peter's Dispensary, a corresponding member of the Institute of Washington, and a member of the Society of Naturalists and Physicians of Heidelberg. He held private practice on York Street near RCSI. Houston was a member of the Royal Irish Academy.

In April of 1845 he suddenly collapsed during a lecture at Baggot Street Hospital. Houston had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died on July 30, 1845.

Source: Wikipedia

John Houston.jpg

Credit: RCSI

During Dr. Houston's career, he published a number of papers, including: 

"On the Structure and Mechanism of the Tongue of the Chameleon" - Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, 1828

"On the Microscopic Pathology of Cancer (with a Woodcut)" - 1844

"Dropsy" - 1842

"The mode of Treatment in Fever" - 1844


Dr. James Barry

One of the most fascinating figures in medical history, Dr. James Barry was a military surgeon in the British Army who rose to the rank of Inspector General of military hospitals. Among Barry’s many achievements were the improvement of conditions for wounded soldiers, and the first caesarean section operation in Africa to see the survival of both the mother and baby. Upon his death from dysentery in 1865, it was discovered that Dr. Barry was in fact a woman, a secret she had hidden her whole life, and one that made her the first woman in the British Isles to qualify as a doctor.

Accounts vary of her early years, but the general consensus is that Dr. Barry was born in Ireland around 1790, the second child of Jeremiah and Mary-Ann Bulkley, and was named Margaret. Her mother was the sister of famed Irish painter James Barry. With Jeremiah in prison and Margaret’s older brother married and estranged, she and her mother were left to fend for themselves. A series of correspondences with the family’s lawyer has led historians to conclude that in 1809 Margaret disguised herself as a boy, assumed the name James Barry, and sailed with her mother to Scotland, where she enrolled in the medical school at the University of Edinburgh, and lived as a man from there on.

Barry qualified as an MD in 1812 and moved to London where he continued his studies. In 1813, he took the examination for the Royal College of Surgeons of England and qualified as a Regimental Assistant, taking up posts in Chelsea and Plymouth, and then India and South Africa. Further promotions would take Barry around the world: to Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, Malta, Corfu, the West Indies, Jamaica and Canada. He was known for his advocacy of improvement of living and hospital conditions for women, children, soldiers and the poor, but also for his tendency to ruffle feathers of those in local politics.


Barry retired – reportedly against his wishes – in 1864. After the discovery of Barry’s sex, the British Army sealed all records relating to him for 100 years. He was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery under the name James Barry, and with full rank.

Source: Sheila


Dr. Thomas B. Fitzpatrick


The father of modern academic dermatology and a giant in the advancement of clinical and investigative dermatology, Dr. Thomas B. Fitzpatrick was born in Madison, Wisconsin on December 19, 1919. Fitzpatrick went on to serve nearly 30 years as the chairman of the Department of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Dermatology Service at Massachusetts General Hospital.


His contributions to the field were tremendous: his renowned multi-author book Dermatology in General Medicine is used to this day; he was a passionate teacher and trainer, and his discoveries and research led to therapies that combat psoriasis and forms of skin cancer. His innovative pursuits led to more effective treatment of skin diseases.

Dr. Fitzpatrick received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and went on to graduate with an MD from Harvard Medical School. He interned at Boston City Hospital and it was there that he recognized a significant imbalance of priority between dermatology and other medical specialties. It became Fitzpatrick’s quest to remedy that imparity. At the University of Minnesota, where he earned his PhD in Pathology, Fitzpatrick met fellow MD and PhD Adam Lerner, with whom he conducted substantial research on skin pigmentation that led to ultraviolet light therapies to treat psoriasis and other severe skin diseases. Fitzpatrick continued advancing his knowledge and took up dermatology training at the University of Michigan and the Mayo Clinic. At 32, he was recruited by the University of Oregon to be Professor and Chair of Dermatology. Harvard would invite him only seven years later to assume the chair of the Dermatology Department. At 39, he became the youngest professor and chair at Harvard.

Among his scientific contributions are the Fitzpatrick Scale, developed in 1975 and used to this day, a numerical classification of skin color and how UV rays affect different skin tones. This discovery led to his quantitative research of the effectiveness of sunscreen. He also helped establish clinical criteria that improved the diagnosis of malignant melanoma, and his research on the epidermal melanin unit fundamentally changed modern dermatology’s understanding of skin pigmentation. Fitzpatrick passed away in Massachusetts in 2003 at age 83.

Source: Michelle Meagher-


Oliver St. John Gogarty

“Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and razor lay crossed.” James Joyce’s Ulysses begins with this comic representation of his contemporary Oliver St. John Gogarty. This solidified the public persona of Gogarty, an accomplished Irish writer, poet, politician, athlete and wit. While he is best known for his connections with W. B Yeats, Arthur Griffith, and Joyce; his own writing; and his political initiatives for Ireland, Gogarty’s greatest immediate contribution to Ireland was his career in medicine as a successful otolaryngologist.

Gogarty’s passion for medicine was passed down to him by his father and grandfather, who were both medical doctors. He was raised Catholic, but due to his family’s affluence was able to gain access to influential schools where Catholics normally were not permitted. He was an accomplished athlete, playing soccer, cricket, and cycling while studying medicine at the Royal University of Ireland and Trinity College, Dublin. Gogarty also relished the bohemian underbelly of Dublin. Under the wing of John Pentland Mahaffy, a former tutor of Oscar Wilde, he was swept away by poetry and literature, publishing poems and stories in various Dublin journals.

In 1906 Gogarty married Martha Duane and by 1907 had passed his medical examinations, receiving both an MB and MD. Gogarty left Ireland to continue training in Vienna with Sir Robert Woods, a specialist in otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat medicine), an area Gogarty would himself master upon returning to Dublin and securing a post at Richmond Hospital in 1908. By 1912, he was a successful surgeon at Meath Hospital where he showcased his love of the theatrical by spouting clever witticisms while operating on patients both wealthy and not, some of whom he saw free of charge. Gogarty’s practice also influenced his political outlook, leading him to see sectarianism as a detriment to Irish health care as it prevented the centralization of medical services.

In the early 1920s, Gogarty became active in the Irish Free State, as a senator and a friend of Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins, whose autopsies and embalmments he later performed. He was kidnapped in 1922 by a group of anti-Treaty militants, but narrowly escaped. After Renvyle, his estate in Galway, was burnt down some months later, he moved his family and his practice to London, but returned to Ireland in 1924. Gogarty remained a senator until 1936, after which he devoted the rest of his life to writing. He tried enlisting to fight in the RAF in WWII, but was denied due to age. After a lecture tour of America in 1939, Gogarty settled in New York, where he wrote novels and early reminisces of his life in Ireland until his death in 1957.

Source: Matt Skwiat-


The worst Nurse in history?

Nurse Jane Toppan

Jane Toppan (March 31, 1854 – October 29, 1938), born Honora Kelley, was an American serial killer, nicknamed "Jolly Jane". After her arrest in 1901, she confessed to 31 murders. She is quoted as saying that her ambition was "to have killed more people—helpless people—than any other man or woman who ever lived".  To read the full story, click on the button here.