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A year in review at RCPI

By Mindo - 14th Dec 2020

Doctors walking through corridor in hospital

RCPI President Prof Mary Horgan reflects on a year like no other for the College

Reflecting back on all that has happened in the past 12 months, I don’t think this time last year I could have ever imagined we would be where we are now,” says RCPI President Prof Mary Horgan.

“For our doctors it’s undoubtedly been one of the most, if not the most, difficult time they may ever face in their careers and lives. I cannot express how proud I am of all our RCPI trainees, members and Fellows who have worked tirelessly in response to the pandemic and in keeping our core medical services operational at this time, both in Ireland and overseas.

Their bravery, selflessness, and dedication to the profession is truly inspiring and I want to say thank you to each and every one of them who have cared for their patients so well and who have adapted to the many challenges Covid-19 has presented while doing so. The beginning of the pandemic was a time of uncertainty for us as a profession and our mission was to ensure that we continued to provide the best of care to our patients and our society.”

Prof Mary Horgan

She continues: “Despite being one of the most challenging years for medicine and in the 366-year history of the RCPI, as President of the College I think we also have to look at some of the positives that have been born from the pandemic – our ability to adapt and innovate to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving health crisis.”

“For the RCPI it has meant the fast tracking of projects we’ve been working on for some time, as well as the creation of innovative solutions that we’ve put in place to ensure that we can continue to educate and inform doctors at this crucial time. I am so proud of all the staff in the College who have come together with the leadership of the RCPI’s CEO Dr Terry McWade to ensure we keep delivering at this really difficult time. Again, my thanks to them.”


One of the first innovations from the RCPI began back in March, just at the very beginning of the pandemic when the College introduced regular webinars as part of the Covid-19 – Update for Clinicians series. Welcoming Irish and international experts these garnered in excess of 30,000 views in the first few months alone and provided up-to-the-minute information for RCPI’s doctors on Covid-19.

“These webinars became vital in educating and informing our doctors with the most up-to-date scientific information and proved a huge success. Our most recent webinar of the series in November reflected where we are now in the pandemic as it was titled ‘A Covid-19 vaccine – The time for optimism’, which I think shows how far we’ve come since we began in March.

“We’ve not just hosted webinars on Covid, we’ve welcomed doctors, virtually, on a diverse range of topics across all specialties and had a great interest and response to these as well. I am grateful to our doctors, both in Ireland and our diaspora, who shared their experience and expertise with our members.”

She adds: “Being able to bring together our doctors in this way has really helped to ensure that we’ve kept them informed throughout the pandemic on those topics that are most vitally important.”

Virtual ceremonies

While unable to host in-person ceremonies, in October the RCPI rolled out its first ever virtual Fellowship ceremonies, with three taking place during each evening of the St Luke’s Symposium – the RCPI has welcomed over 200 Fellows this year, record-breaking numbers for the College. These ceremonies proved incredibly popular, having been viewed over 2,000 times already on the RCPI’s YouTube channel.

“In late November we also held our first ever membership ceremony, celebrating those who received MRCPI in obstetrics and gynaecology, already this has been viewed over 900 times, showing just how popular this initiative has been,” says Prof Horgan.

For our doctors it’s undoubtedly been one of the most, if not the most, difficult time they may ever face in their careers and lives

“We’ve two more ceremonies planned for those receiving MRCPI in medicine and paediatrics that we hope are as equally well attended and viewed. I’m especially pleased with how these ceremonies have been able to engage our members who are based overseas and might otherwise have missed out on the chance to celebrate their achievements with us.”

Informing and engaging

“We’ve opened up a number of new ways of communicating in 2020. As well as our webinars and regular e-zines we also established a new RCPI podcast back in April, The Expert View,” says Prof Horgan. “Hosted by Siobhan Creaton, Head of Public Affairs and Advocacy, the idea was to bring the knowledge of our doctors to the airwaves and to share their experiences and insight with both physicians and the public. We’ve had a great response to these and there are big plans in place to further expand on this series into 2021 and beyond.”

St Luke’s Symposium

In October, the annual St Luke’s Symposium was presented completely online with both speakers and attendees joining remotely. Over 1,500 people logged in live over the four days of the event, with another 1,400 watching back the programme in the RCPI’s digital library, Panopto and via YouTube.

“We were blown away by how popular this year’s Symposium turned out to be, both over the four days of the event and afterwards, and I have to extend thanks to all of this year’s speakers for sharing their time and knowledge with us so generously,” says Prof Horgan.

Keeping heritage alive

“Our historic building at 6 Kildare Street has remained closed for the majority of 2020, which has meant that we haven’t been able to welcome our members there for some time. However, Harriet Wheelock, our Keeper of Collections, has worked tirelessly to keep our members informed and engaged with the history of our historic building and organisation,” says Prof Horgan.

The RCPI Heritage Centre rolled out the ‘Pause for a Poem’ initiative, which ran on Twitter and encouraged physicians to take a moment out of their day to enjoy a piece of poetry. A total of 50 pieces were showcased by this project.

The Centre also launched two online exhibitions, the first on smallpox and the history of vaccination in Ireland and the second on the life and work of Dr Conolly Norman, both of which can be viewed via its website. The Centre also continued to provide online support for researchers looking to explore the College’s archives throughout this time.

Historic second term

In September, Prof Horgan was re-elected for a historic second term as President of the RCPI, the first ever woman to achieve this, and the first person reelected for a second term since 1894.

“I was humbled to have been chosen again by our doctors as President,” says Prof Horgan, “My hope is that in the next three years, which will undoubtedly be difficult ones as we emerge from the pandemic, I can continue to build on the work of my first term and provide both direction and guidance as we move into 2021 and beyond.”

Health and wellbeing

Prof Horgan says that having returned to the frontline earlier this year she is acutely aware of the stress and strain doctors are under at the moment, both mentally and physically, and is keen to share that the RCPI has support in place for any doctors who feel they might need it.

She says: “Coming to terms with what we’ve been through this year will take time and I’d urge all doctors to give themselves some space, if possible, to reflect back on the experiences of the year. The RCPI is here for our doctors and our health and wellbeing department remains open for those who may need extra support at this time, or in the future when we hopefully begin to process what we have been through this year.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to where we are on hand to help.”

Looking ahead

Prof Horgan says that, despite the uncertainty that lies ahead she is determined that the RCPI will continue to move forward in 2021.

“We have proven that even the pandemic hasn’t been able to stop us in our core mission of delivering education to our doctors and supporting them in all their achievements. While there will still be tough times ahead I feel that what we’ve come through this year has shown just how strong we are, together. And it’s this togetherness between all our trainees, members, and Fellows that I want to cultivate further, build on and nurture further in 2021.”

This article was produced by the RCPI

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