Ciaran McCarthy – An Appreciation

Pioneering gastroenterologist and academic

Ciaran McCarthy, emeritus professor of medicine at University College Galway and consultant gastroenterologist at University College Hospital Galway, died on July 23rd, 2016.

He established Galway as a world-class research centre into coeliac disease, forming strong research liaisons with colleagues in biochemistry and pathology. Thus began an extraordinarily productive line of research and publication into coeliac disease. He collaborated on over 100 publications on multiple facets of coeliac disease. He also pioneered research into the inheritance of hereditary haemochromatosis in Ireland.

Ciaran McCarthy was born in Dublin on November 4th, 1933, the eldest son of Conor and Hilda McCarthy. His father was a consultant psychiatrist and acting professor of psychiatry at UCG, where Ciaran attended medical school. He excelled at rugby and was captain of the university rugby team. He graduated with honours in 1957 and completed his internship in Galway. He then moved to London, where he worked as house physician at the Hammersmith Hospital.

After a brief period at the Brompton Chest Hospital, he moved to the Bristol Royal Infirmary. From Bristol, Ciaran went to Duke University in North Carolina and then returned to Bristol, where he became senior lecturer and honorary consultant.


In 1969, Ciaran McCarthy was appointed as consultant physician and gastroenterologist to what was then the Regional Hospital Galway.

In 1972, he was appointed professor of medicine at UCG, and by 1975 he had established an academic department of medicine built on the regional hospital site, with lecture theatres, tutorial rooms, offices and a research laboratory staffed with post-doctoral scientists.

This far-seeing development was the direct forerunner of the present Clinical Sciences Institute.

In addition to his academic and research commitments, Prof McCarthy had a full internal medicine commitment at the regional hospital, as well as being the only gastroenterologist west of the Shannon until 1979. His formidable workload also included serving on the governing body of UCG and as vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. He also served on an EEC medical research committee in Brussels. Despite these considerable personal demands, he always maintained a remarkably cool and unrushed demeanour.

Early in this whirlwind career, Ciaran married Dr Dorothy Joyce from Oughterard, who was a classmate at UCG. They will be remembered for the extraordinary welcome they extended to their many friends, colleagues and trainees at their home in Rosscahill.

He is survived by Dorothy and their four children: Mary Rose, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist; Conor, a consultant rheumatologist; and Myles and Justin, who are both engineers. He always made time to enjoy his family, to read, play golf, and look after his garden.

Ciaran McCarthy inspired and mentored a generation of medical students and young doctors to pursue clinical and academic excellence.He exemplified how much can be achieved by a quiet and courteous man through intelligence, leadership, determination and hard work. –