• Dr Mary Josephine Hannan was the first woman both to train and to qualify at RCSI. Born in Dublin, she enrolled in 1886 (a year after women were first admitted) and received her licence in 1890. A short time later she travelled to India to work in several of Lady Dufferin’s hospitals dedicated to female healthcare. In 1896, she established herself as Cardiff’s first practising female doctor. Subsequently, Hannan relocated to South Africa where she became a member of the General Committee of the South African Medical Congress. For many years she worked as a medical officer to native women and lectured in midwifery at the Victoria Maternity Hospital, Johannesburg. A champion of women’s rights, Hannan was a member of the Women’s Enfranchisement League; on occasion, she refused to pay taxes which applied to unmarried women but not unmarried men. She also founded the Girl Guide movement in Pretoria.

  • Dr Margaret (Pearl) Dunlevy was an epidemiologist whose championing of immunisation served to eradicate tuberculosis in Ireland. Born in Donegal, Dunlevy received her licence from RCSI in 1932, coming first in her class. After several years training in Britain, including a period as a TB physician in Cardiff, Dunlevy earned a diploma in public health from UCD, again coming first in her class. She continued her research into TB as assistant medical officer in Dublin, at Crooksling Sanatorium and at St Ultan’s Hospital for Infants, where she was member of the BCG committee (Bacillus Calmette–Guérin: a vaccine primarily used against tuberculosis). The success of a Dunlevy’s BCG pilot programme in Dublin led to its nationwide expansion, with further success. In later years, Dunlevy published extensively and was a columnist for the Irish Medical Times. She was President of the RCSI Biological Society, President of the Irish Society for Medical Officers of Health and a Member and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

  • Missing episodes?

    Click here to refresh the feed.

  • Dr Emily Winifred Dickson was the first female Fellow of RCSI. Born in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, she began her studies at RCSI in 1887, two years after the College first admitted female students. Dickson enjoyed a distinguished academic career, winning a number of student medals and receiving her licence in 1891. She earned her MB (Bachelor of Medicine, first class honours, with an exhibition prize) in 1893, the year she was also elected a Fellow of the College, a first for a woman in any college of surgeons in Ireland or Britain. She studied on a scholarship in Vienna and Berlin, and in 1894 on the opening of the Extern Department for Diseases of Women at the Richmond Hospital, Dublin, was appointed as its first gynaecologist. She also served as supernumerary assistant at the Coombe. In 1896 Dickson was appointed examiner at the RCSI, another first for women in Ireland or Britain. In later life, she worked in Britain as a medical health officer and general practitioner.

  • Dr Mary Somerville Parker Strangman was a doctor, suffragist and elected councillor. Born in Waterford, Strangman and her sister Lucia enrolled at RCSI in 1891, receiving their licences in 1896. After training and lecturing in Britain, Mary Strangman became the second woman to earn the fellowship of RCSI in 1902. Establishing a practice in Waterford, Strangman also volunteered at various local women’s charities and published a number of research articles on alcoholism and morphine addiction. She was an active suffragist and served on the executive committee of the Irishwomen’s Suffrage Federation (1911 – 1917). As co-founder of the local branch of the Woman’s National Health Association, Strangman worked to combat tuberculosis, the country’s principal killer disease. Seeing the authorities’ poor investment in sanitation, Strangman stood for election on a public health platform and was elected Waterford’s first female councillor in 1912. Retiring from office in 1920, Strangman continued in general practice and as physician at Waterford County and City Infirmary.

  • Sr Dr Maura Lynch was a surgeon who revolutionised obstetric fistula care in Uganda. Born in Youghal, Co Cork in 1938, Lynch joined the Medical Missionaries of Mary aged seventeen before studying medicine at UCD. She earned a diploma in obstetrics and gynaecology at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and then studied tropical medicine and Portuguese in Lisbon so that her order could send her to Angola. After nearly twenty years of clinical work in Angola, Lynch saw that the need for a specialist surgeon in the country was not being met. She therefore at the age of forty-seven undertook further study in Ireland and obtained the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 1985. After another two years in Angola Lynch was reassigned to Uganda, where she would remain for the next thirty years. Lynch is credited with more than 1,000 vesicovaginal fistula repairs, all the while raising funds for, and awareness of, what is generally considered a disease of poverty.

  • Dr Victoria Coffey was one of the first female paediatricians in Ireland. After graduation from RCSI, Coffey worked at the Meath and Coombe Hospitals before being appointed in 1943 as medical officer in charge of children at St Kevin’s Hospital. During this period, she developed her interest in the neglected field of congenital birth defects and began a distinguished publishing career. Appointed lecturer in teratology at Trinity College, Coffey went on to conduct pioneering research on a range of subjects including metabolic disorders in the newborn and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In 1979 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and was also a founding member of their Faculty of Paediatrics. She was the first female recipient of RCSI’s Distinguished Graduate Medal, first woman President of both the Irish Paediatric Association and the RCSI Postgraduates’ Association, and President and founding member of the Irish and American Paediatric Society.

  • Born in Wexford, Mary Frances Crowley undertook her professional training in Britain, earning her Registered Nurse Certificate in 1935. She returned to Ireland in 1941 to take up a senior position in Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital. In 1944, she was appointed Assistant Matron of the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital. Immediately after the war, Crowley travelled to northern France as Matron of the Irish Red Cross Hospital at Saint-Lô (the hospital’s storekeeper, interpreter and driver was Samuel Beckett, the future Nobel Laureate). For their work at Saint-Lô, Crowley and her staff were awarded the Medaille de la Reconnaisance Française. Crowley founded the Nursing Training School at the Eye and Ear and became Director of Nursing Studies. In 1974, her ambition of many years was realised with the establishment of a Faculty of Nursing at RCSI, the first of its kind in Ireland or Britain and a rarity worldwide.

  • Dr Barbara Maive Stokes was a pediatrician and pioneering disability campaigner. Born in London, Stokes studied medicine at Trinity College, Dublin, after which she trained as house physician at the Meath Hospital. She earned a certificate in public health from UCD in 1947 and hoped to become an epidemiologist, but the marriage bar prevented this as positions in that field were all within the public service.

    Turning to pediatrics, Stokes was appointed assistant physician at St. Ultan’s Hospital; she also worked at the Royal City of Dublin Hospital, and in the 1950s was Senior Demonstrator in Pharmacy and Physiology at RCSI.

    Stokes' first involvement with the association that would become St. Michael’s House, a community-based service for people with an intellectual disability, was as a part-time volunteer; later she managed the entire organisation. A tireless advocate, Stokes served on many boards, notably the National Rehabilitation Board and Inclusion Ireland.