Childhood and School
I grew up in Co. Donegal in rural Ireland. My father was a general medical practitioner, in the traditional sense – meaning that he occupied a central role in our community. He saw patients in our home and made house calls. I was often asked to help. Whether using my small hands to retract an eyelid or keeping him company on drives to patients’ homes, I always admired the emphasis he put on making himself approachable to his patients.
From an early age, I was certain that I wanted to become a doctor. I started medical school at The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), in 1995 and graduated with an honours degree (MB BCh BAO), in 2001. While at this great institution, I found myself inspired by its surgical heritage, and the artistic and scientific aspects of surgery. Among the many enriching opportunities offered at RCSI, the most memorable was the summer I spent working at The Coast General Hospital in Mombasa, Kenya. The patients at this hospital were poverty stricken, many of them suffering from conditions like malaria, HIV and malnutrition. Witnessing the strength and resilience of the human form and spirit in the face of extreme adversity was a life-changing experience.
In 2002, I completed my internship at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, going on to work at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, on the basic surgical training program. During this two-year posting I experienced an array of surgical specialties from orthopaedics to liver transplant. The most exciting was my first six-month experience in plastic surgery. Always focussed on surgery, this was when I realised that I wanted to be a plastic surgeon.
Recognising the imperative to strive for excellence in science and the discipline this would teach me, I then embarked on a Master of Surgery (MCh) degree. In a two-year full time laboratory based research project, I applied novel ideas to improve wound healing in diabetes.
In 2007, after earning my MCh degree, I was awarded a place on the prestigious Irish Higher Surgical Training Program for Plastic Surgery. For the next four years, I worked as a Specialist Registrar in Plastic Surgery in:
• University College Hospital, Galway
• St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin
• Cork University Hospital
• St. James’s Hospital, Dublin
• Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Dublin
Fellowships – London & Essex, UK.
Already well trained, I decided to challenge myself: to expand my knowledge and perspective through international experience. I competed for positions in some of the world’s most famous and well respected plastic surgery centres. In 2011 I moved to London, UK and commenced work as a Specialist Registrar and Senior Clinical Fellow at The Royal Free Hospital. Two years later I took a position as a Specialist Registrar and Senior Clinical Fellow at one of Europe’s busiest acute plastic surgery units, St. Andrews Centre for Plastic Surgery and Burns at Broomfield Hospital in Essex, UK. During my time in the UK I successfully passed my Intercollegiate Specialty Examination in Plastic Surgery. This qualified me to receive the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (FRCSI) and the following year, I was awarded the Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training (CCST).
Fellowships – Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
In July 2013 I started a clinical fellowship at the world renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. There I specialised in Reconstructive Microsurgery – a highly specialised technique employed in the reconstruction of complex defects, often secondary to cancer ablation surgery. During this period, I practiced primarily in breast reconstruction (80%) and head and neck reconstruction (20%). I had another pivotal experience while working at ‘Hopkins as part of a surgical charity mission to Hanoi, Vietnam. There, working with leading microsurgeons to assist in the recovery of complex reconstructive surgical patients, I saw clearly the role of plastic surgery in improving lives.
Fellowships – New York City, USA.
To complete my training, I needed a dedicated stint of practice in cosmetic surgery. The competition for quality training posts in this subspecialty is keen. So I felt privileged to be awarded a place on the Cosmetic Surgery Fellowship Program at The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mt Sinai (NYEEI). There I was instructed by world-leading cosmetic surgeons and focused on complex surgical rejuvenation of the eyes, face, breasts, trunk and limbs.