Prof Michael J O’Halloran (An Appreciation)

Apart from his total dedication to St Luke’s Hospital and its patients, the late Prof Michael J O’Halloran contributed for 30 years in a significant way to the ongoing development of clinical oncology.

Prof Michael J O’Halloran, former Medical Director of St Luke’s Hospital, Rathgar, and former Professor of Clinical Oncology Trinity College Dublin (TCD) passed away in his 91st year on May 4.

Prof O’Halloran was educated in O’Connells School, University College Dublin (UCD) and Mater Hospital, Dublin. He subsequently decided to specialise in the field of Radiotherapy/Oncology and he was one of the first doctors to concentrate exclusively on therapy.

He trained in the Christie Hospital in Manchester, UK, which was at that time one of the leading cancer centres in the world, under the direction of the famous Prof R Patterson.

On his return to Ireland Prof O’Halloran worked for a short period in St Anne’s Hospital before transferring to St Luke’s in 1954, where he worked for the rest of his professional life.

St Luke’s at that time in the 1950s and 60s was a truly comprehensive centre performing major surgery in addition to Radiation and Drug Therapy. Prof O’Halloran played an important part in maintaining and evolving the services.

He had a special interest in thyroid and breast cancers resulting in a number of academic publications and presentations in these areas in Ireland, UK and America.

In recognition of his expertise in these areas he was appointed a Member of the UK Breast Trials Committee.

After Oliver Chance’s retirement (the first Medical Director of St Luke’s), Prof O’Halloran was appointed Medical Director in 1973 and remained in that position until his retirement at the end of 1988.

He was totally dedicated to St Luke’s and its patients, constantly trying to maintain and upgrade cancer services in line with European and American developments.

Friends of St Luke’s
The Department of Health in the 1970s and 1980s viewed St Luke’s, and in particular the specialty of Radiotherapy, as a very low priority — so much so that Prof O’Halloran, along with a group of very close friends, established the Friends of St Luke’s in 1981.

The aims were initially to help provide essential equipment for the hospital and to improve facilities for patients and their families to provide up-to-date care.

The Friends’ contributions have been hugely successful, nay essential for the hospital, and this continues to this very day. Prof O’ Halloran did realise that the general university hospitals around the country had an increasingly important role in cancer care and accordingly he ensured that all consultant appointments in Oncology to St Luke’s from the 1970s on were joint appointments with these hospitals, thus ensuring the integration of St Luke’s with these centres.

He himself was appointed to the consultant staff in the Mater, Temple St and Rotunda hospitals.

High esteem
The overall esteem in which he was held was recognised by his peers with the appointment to a Chair in Clinical Oncology, TCD, in 1974 and his election as Dean of the Faculty of Radiology, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, in 1987.

At a personal level he was a keen sportsman playing rugby in his UCD and Mater Hospital days and subsequently becoming a most esteemed, long-standing member of Royal Dublin Golf Club. He was elected Club Captain in 1972, and was subsequently both Captain and President of the Dublin Hospitals Golfing Society.

He had seven children with his much beloved late wife Gertrude. Of his children, one, Marie-Thérèse, followed him on the oncological path, becoming a Therapeutic Radiographer, and another, David, continuing on his role as Chairman of the Friends of St Luke’s for a number of successful years.

He was very much a family man and very close to all his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Overall, Prof O’Halloran was a very successful and caring doctor, a modest, capable and decent friend to all who knew him. May he rest in peace.

— MM