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Limerick Surgical Conference Goes Virtual with Range of Eminent Speakers



Limerick Surgical Conference – Pictured at the library in the Clinical Education and Research Centre, UHL, with Dara Walsh, medical illustrator, Prof John Calvin Coffey and UL GEMS medical students Olwyn Conlon, Ross Book, and Sophie Sabherwal (photo taken before social distancing). 

 Limerick Surgical Conference Goes Virtual with Range of Eminent Speakers

One of the leading educational events in the Irish medical calendar moves online this week as University Hospital Limerick hosts the Sylvester O’Halloran Virtual Perioperative Symposium on Friday, March 5 and Saturday, March 6. 

 Among the keynote speakers will be Professor Susan Standring, Emeritus Professor of Anatomy at King’s College London, and Editor-in-Chief of Gray’s Anatomy; and pioneering colorectal cancer surgeon Professor Werner Hohenberger, Emeritus Professor, Chair of Surgery, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany.

From its beginnings in 1992, the annual Sylvester O’Halloran meeting has developed into one of the most anticipated such events in Ireland and, increasingly, internationally. The symposium has been posted on some of the leading surgical websites worldwide, including the American College of Surgeons.

“Gray’s Anatomy is arguably the most famous textbook in medicine,” said Prof J Calvin Coffey, Foundation Chair of Surgery at the Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick (UL) and general and colorectal surgeon, UHL.

“It started in 1858 and remained one of the most important foundation texts for every medicine student worldwide. So, to welcome Prof Susan Standring, its Editor-in-Chief is a remarkable honour for the organisers, the Midwest region and indeed for Ireland,” added Prof Coffey.

Similarly, Prof Werner Hohenberger is a renowned surgeon and educator who has won numerous honours in his native Germany and worldwide. His innovations in surgical oncology have been practice-changing for surgeons around the world. These have been adopted to save lives and improve the quality of life for patients.

Other keynote speakers this year include:

Prof H Paul Redmond, Professor and Chairman of Surgery at Cork University Hospital, “Surgery and the Immune Response: Unravelling the Enigma of an Unpredictable Relationship”.

 Dr Eva Doherty, Director of Human Factors and Patient Safety, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Nursing Masterclass “Are Your Teams Emotionally Intelligent”. 

In an average year, the symposium can attract over 500 attendees to Limerick. However, this year’s event has been moved to a virtual platform in line with the public health guidelines. The virtual platform allows the organisers to overcome geographical limitations, and already attendees have registered from Malaysia, Australia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the USA.

“The pandemic has radically altered how we, as surgeons work and how surgical training is carried out. It has changed each patient’s perioperative journey. It has also altered how education and research events such as this are organised,” said Prof Coffey.

“One of the most eagerly anticipated sessions of the symposium will be on Covid-19 and on how we as surgeons have had to adapt to keep patients and colleagues safe. This is the first occasion such a session is being held at the Sylvester O’Halloran Symposium. It is a sign of the times and reflects how rapidly our focus has changed as clinicians.”

“It is almost exactly 12 months since UHL and other hospitals around the country began to admit their first Covid-19 patients. Last year’s Sylvester O’Halloran symposium had to be abruptly cancelled, and the CERC Building evacuated on March 5 as we moved to active management of the crisis and curtailing non-essential activity.

“This was in advance of any national lockdown, and some felt we had acted precipitously in cancelling the conference, but nothing we have learned about Covid-19 over the last 12 months has led us to believe the decision was incorrect. We have all had to adapt, and it is heartening that one year on, we can organise such a comprehensive programme and learn from colleagues around the world how we can continue to care for our patients in the Covid-19 environment. It is a tribute to the trainees, nurses, surgeons, doctors, students, management and administration that they have been able to overcome the tremendous challenges presented by the pandemic in organising this symposium.”

The Sylvester O’Halloran Virtual Perioperative Scientific Symposium is now the single largest national perioperative surgical meeting in Ireland and is collaboratively hosted by the Departments of Surgery, Anaesthesia, Nursing, ENT and Orthopaedics, in conjunction with the Perioperative Directorate at UL Hospitals Group and the School of Medicine, University of Limerick. Approximately 500 attendees are expected to register over the three days.

 The Sylvester O’Halloran Virtual Perioperative Scientific Symposium is supported by the UL Hospitals Group Executive Management Team. It is also supported by industry.

“Without the support of industry, this symposium could not be self-sustaining. Because it is, we can hold it annually. This means that trainees get several opportunities for professional advancement and career progression. Almost all of us can thank the Sylvester O’Halloran meeting for helping us in our careers. This means we can be enormously grateful to industry supports.”

Sessions take place on anaesthesia and critical care and the specialities including breast, gastrointestinal, colorectal, vascular, orthopaedics and ENT/head and neck.

There are several awards for presenters, including the prestigious Sylvester O’Halloran Prize and O’Shaughnessy Prize in Anaesthetics. 


About Sylvester O’Halloran (1728 – 1807)

Surgeon Extraordinaire

Sylvester O’Halloran was a renowned surgeon/historian born in Limerick early in the 18th century. His career choice was influenced by the significant lack of surgical services in Limerick and Ireland. Having completed a brilliant course of study in London and Paris, he returned to his native city in 1749, well equipped to begin his excellent humanitarian task. He and others founded the Limerick County Infirmary in the town in 1761. The foundation stone is now preserved in the Sylvester O’Halloran Post Graduate Centre at University Hospital Limerick.

Limerick Surgical Conference

Sylvester O’Halloran.

Despite his many outstanding surgery and literary achievements, Sylvester O’Halloran’s most enduring legacy is the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. He had been very impressed while in France with the Académie Royale de Chirurgie, which had been founded in Paris in 1731 during the reign of Louis XV. Sylvester O’Halloran’s Proposals for the Advancement of Surgery in Ireland (1765) and his driving enthusiasm were responsible for the establishment of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 1784; he was awarded honorary membership of the RCSI in 1786. His passionate commitment to education, research and surgical skills marked him out from his contemporaries. He was a dedicated doctor to his numerous patients, whom he looked after with great compassion.

The annual Sylvester O’Halloran Meeting, named in his honour, was started in 1992 by the late Limerick surgeon, Mr Peter Delaney, and Professor Eamonn McQuaid of UL. It has been subsequently run by Limerick surgeons Prof Pierce Grace, Ms Shona Tormey and now, Prof J Calvin Coffey.


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Richard is a presenter, producer, songwriter and actor. He was named the Limerick Person of the Year (2011) and won an online award at the Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Awards (2011) for promoting multi-culturalism online. Richard says that the concept is very much a community driven project that aims to document life in Limerick. So, that in 20 years time people can look back and remember the events that were making the headlines.