The Faculty of Paediatrics is delighted to announce that this year's recipient of the prestigious Kathleen Lynn Medal is Dr Desmond Duff, who worked as a consultant paediatric cardiologist in Ireland over four decades, caring for thousands of children with congenital heart disease.
He will be presented with the medal at the Faculty's Annual General Meeting on 9 October 2020.
The Faculty of Paediatrics established the Kathleen Lynn Medal in 2018 to be awarded for exceptional service on behalf of children, especially in Ireland. It is the highest award in Ireland to recognise paediatricians that have been outstanding in their careers and in their contribution to paediatrics and child health.
Dr Desmond Duff worked as a consultant paediatric cardiologist in Ireland for over four decades, caring for thousands of children with congenital heart disease. He often faced an overwhelming workload and severely limited resources. Despite this, he worked tirelessly and provided exceptional care with grace, kindness and total commitment to his patients.
He graduated from UCD in 1967. Following internship at St. Vincent’s Hospital on St. Stephen’s Green and general paediatric training in Crumlin, Great Ormond Street and Hammersmith Hospitals, he completed a Fellowship in Paediatric Cardiology in Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston, Texas. He was appointed Paediatric Cardiologist there in 1976. During his time in the U.S.A. he achieved American Board Certification in Paediatrics and in Paediatric Cardiology.
In 1979 he returned to Ireland from Houston to take up his position as the first full time Paediatric Cardiologist in Ireland. In the 1980s and 90s he campaigned tirelessly to get a second Paediatric Cardiologist appointment ratified, writing lengthy submissions indicating the huge waiting lists and stating "Our children are precious and deserve better."
At one point his daughter Claire Duff wrote a letter to the Minister for Health, Rory O’Hanlon, outlining the life led by her Dad – “He is never home till late, he leaves early every morning. He gets calls all through the night. Even when we go on holidays, they call him from the hospital. He is always exhausted. We know how much he loves his patients, but we would like to see our Dad sometime too”.
In 1993 Dr Paul Oslizlok was appointed as the second Paediatric Cardiologist in Ireland.
Dr Duff was a founding member of the All-Ireland Congenital Heart Network, established in 1999. Throughout his career Dr Duff was loved and admired for his gentleness and compassion, his ability to communicate and listen to parents and patients, to explain and illustrate even the most complex of lesions, his understanding of the workings of the heart, his clinical ability, his unique talent of being able to calm a distressed infant or toddler and his amazing capacity for cardiac auscultation and clinical examination.
Paediatricians and NCHDs were always impressed at how Dr Duff would listen carefully to them when they described the patients’ heart sounds, clinical findings and electrocardiogram findings. He listened with patience and respect and was never judgmental, despite their relative inexperience.
After a long career dedicated to children's health he retired from Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin in 2007. His retirement was marked with a huge send-off in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham organised by his friend and colleague Dr Paul Oslizlok, and attended by Minister for Health, Mary Harney, colleagues from USA, UK, Europe and almost every paediatrician in Ireland.
His retirement was also marked by his patients and their families. Heart Children Ireland gave a farewell party for Dr Duff, attended by 450 patients and families.
Dr Duff continued as teacher and examiner at UCD and RCSI until 2013. He is now enjoying golf, gardening, art and his 11 grandchildren.
Given Desmond’s enormous contribution to medicine, paediatrics and paediatric cardiology over four decades the Faculty is delighted to award him the Kathleen Lynn medal. This award serves to recognise his commitment to excellence in clinical care of his patients, his kindness and decency to all and his brilliance as an educator and mentor to many paediatricians and paediatric cardiologists.
Dr Ellen Crushell, Dean, Faculty of Paediatrics
Dr Kathleen Lynn (1874-1955) was the daughter of a Church of Ireland rector in Co. Mayo. She was deeply affected by the destitution that she witnessed as a child among the local population and decided to become a doctor. She graduated from the Royal University of Ireland (now UCD) in 1899.
She devoted most of her professional life in Dublin to caring for sick and malnourished children and with other colleagues established St. Ultan’s Hospital for infants. As well as treating sick and malnourished children, the hospital addressed the wider role of educating young mothers about breast-feeding and basic principles of hygiene and nutrition. Dr. Lynn was an ardent feminist and a patriot who supported the workers during the 1913 lockout and was Chief Medical Officer during the 1916 Easter Rising.
She also led the way for women working in medicine in Ireland and St Ultan's was staffed mostly by female doctors. She did much to improve the lives of Irish children through medicine and education and we look forward to presenting this medal as our highest award to those making equally outstanding contributions to children's health.
The Kathleen Lynn Medal has previously been awarded to Dr Patricia Scanlan, whose work has led to a significant improvement in the survival rate for children in Tanzania with cancer, and Professor Karina Butler, a world expert in the field of Paediatric HIV/AIDS, particularly in the area of prevention of mother to child transmission.