Alumni Spotlight

Prof J Calvin Coffey - Chair of Surgery, UL

30 Jan
Prof J Calvin Coffey

Prof. Calvin Coffey made global headlines when he and his team identified the mesentery as a new human organ. His findings were published in the Lancet and medical students are now being taught that the mesentery is a distinct organ. Gray’s Anatomy has even been updated to include the new description of the mesentery. Prof. Coffey tells us how his time studying Anatomy at UCC led him to this exciting discovery.

Course/subjects studied in UCC

Medicine – I entered in 1991 and qualified in 1998
I also took a year out in 1995 to do a B.Sc in Anatomy, which helped me enormously from a surgical perspective

Best memory of UCC

The grounds – beautiful!
And of course my wife, Dee, also a student In UCC.

How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?

As I qualified in medicine this provided me with the foundation to enter and complete training as a surgeon. My B.Sc in Anatomy in UCC helped enormously from a clinical and scientific perspective. In terms of clinical activity it provide me with the anatomic foundation to pursue surgery. In terms of research I became very familiar with classic teaching in abdominal anatomy. I think it was this familiarity which led me to focus on the mesentery during my clinical practice.

What is your advice to current UCC students?

Pursue what you love to do, be honest with yourself in that pursuit. I firmly believe you must do this as I do not think it is possible to be good at what you do not like doing. In contrast, if you identify what you are passionate about, and get to focus on that as your living, then you will excel, and so will the people around you.

What person/people at UCC had the most positive influence on you?

Professor Peter Dockery, Professor John Fraher and Professor Kieran McDermott in the Anatomy Department

Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?

Very briefly in first year in the Canoe Club, but didn’t like the cold so my attendance on the Lee or the River Bandon dropped off.

Favourite UCC legend or superstition

Crossing the quad before you qualify – apparently if you did this you risked not qualifying. I have to say I defied that tradition on a few occasions.

Prof. J. Calvin Coffey is Foundation Chair of Surgery in the Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick

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