2020 - 2029

Honorary Citation by Dr Liam Plant for Dr Veronica Delaney

25 May 2022

"President, Head of the College of Medicine & Health, Head of the Medical School, distinguished Faculty, and Class of 2022 Medical Graduates.

It is my privilege and my pleasure to deliver this citation, as a narrative substantiation as to why Professor Veronica Delaney is a worthy recipient, Honoris causa, of a Doctorate in Medicine from this Medical School. Furthermore, I hope that this narrative will exhibit to you Graduates in particular, an inspiring model of achievement within multiple domains of life. You may now have some trepidation on the potential challenges that your future will present. Alumni who have already navigated the past should be your lodestars. Vera Delaney is undoubtedly one such. 

Vera now lives in New York where she is currently Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine and Medical Director of Renal Transplantation at the Rencanati/Miller Transplantation Institute in Mount Sinai Hospital. Now, those of you who have occasionally attended lectures and tutorials in CUH will immediately recognize that, as a Nephrologist, she is already one of ‘The Chosen’! But how did she get from Enrolment Day in University College Cork in 1961 back to Graduation Day in University College Cork in 2022……? 

Her nominee, my colleague Dr Will Fennell (Emeritus Consultant Cardiologist of this parish), enrolled with her in the Pre-Medical Class of 1961. However, Vera, a St. Angela’s College girl and the first in her family to enter University, decided for personal reasons that she would transfer to the Faculty of Science, where she read for an Honours BSc in Biochemistry, graduating in 1964. Nowadays, we don’t bat an eyelid at the number of women graduating in Medicine and in STEM disciplines – it was not always such, a reflection which Vera has shared with me when we spoke about her life last week. She also shared how she had found some of her Lecturers to be immensely boring but found her Course to be a wonderfully comprehensive foundation for her future. [Point at Faculty group] At least some traditions are still maintained….! 

She was busy as an Undergraduate, excelling in sport, captaining UCC in Tennis and in Hockey, and representing Munster. UCC now offers the Quercus Scholarships to support, amongst other achievements, sporting and academic excellence. No such opportunity existed then, but I would be confident that Vera would certainly have been a recipient were she to have joined us in more recent years. She has affirmed to me her strong view on the importance of sport and exercise in a balanced life, howsoever busy, and we should hear her. Oh, and she was also ranked in the Top 10 female squash players in the UK and played golf with a single figure handicap……. 

She next moved to London, continuing her studies in Biochemistry at University College Hospital, and defended her Ph.D. Thesis on "The effects of hepatotoxic agents on liver metabolism and bile secretion in the rat." The newly titled ‘Dr Delaney’ then made the momentous decision to return to Medicine, enrolling in St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in 1968. A route such as this, with a pathway though primary and higher Science degrees to later entry to Medical School, is now very familiar to many of you in the Graduate Entry Medical Class. It was certainly not so in the 1960’s… 

Needless to say, she graduated with Honours, ranking First in Medicine and in Paediatrics. 

She returned to Ireland for her initial medical training - not to Cork, but to Dublin - where she worked as an Intern, SHO and Fellow in Nephrology at the Meath Hospital. Nephrology was, at that time, in its infancy in Ireland, existing in only 4 hospitals and it was a time of innovation and development. She travelled to Kuwait in this period, helping to establish Nephrology Services in that country, and in 1979 moved to Pittsburgh in the United States of America, as a Research Associate, to further develop her career in Nephrology. In circumstances that will resonate with some in this audience, she needed to ‘go back again’ and repeat her Internship, before joining the Nephrology Fellowship Programme at Montefiore Hospital and the University of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, in that era, under the leadership of Tom Starzl and others, was to the international forefront in Renal Transplantation. Another exciting time of innovation and development.

During her Fellowship she was awarded an M.D. by the University of London for her thesis on ‘Bartter’s Syndrome: A dilemma of cause and effect’. She will be asking Graduates afterwards about your views on the Solute Carrier Family 12 Transporters and I hope that none of you will let this Medical School down…. 

At this time, she also had a family to look after and, unlike most of us, much record of her struggles and achievements in that role is in the public domain, particularly as articulated in the book ‘’The Education of an Idealist’ by her daughter, Samantha Power, the well-known Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, diplomat and political scientist. You might ask: ‘How did she have the time to do all this?’ She did. She could. You can. 

A series of Clinical and Academic appointments followed: at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia; at the State University of New York in Brooklyn; at the Westchester Medical Centre, New York Medical College, Valhalla; and, most recently, since 2012, at Mount Sinai Hospital. I’m not sure where she’s going next – the Department of Renal Medicine at Cork University Hospital, perhaps…..? 

In all these centres of excellence, Vera was not only a busy practising Clinician, but also a leadership figure as the Medical Director of multiple Divisions, particularly Renal Transplantation. In Academia she has progressed through the multiple glass ceilings between Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and full Professor. She has an extensive portfolio of publications and her Book Chapters (some co-authored with Professor Eddie Bourke, who is here with her today) deal, to my immense pleasure as a fellow devotee of such topics, with amongst others, such items as the proper use of diuretic agents and the management of disorders of magnesium balance. She will be asking Graduands (Graduates, if already conferred) afterwards about your views on the TRPM6 Transporter and the Epithelial Sodium Channel and I hope that none of you will let this Medical School down…… 

With all these achievements that can be documented ad enumerated for us all to see, what can we fall say about the person behind them, particularly if, like me, you do not know them well? I think one needs to seek direct or indirect testament as to this, and I would present 2 pieces of evidence that I have encountered, in trying to ask the question ‘what particularly identifies Vera Delaney’? 

In her daughter’s book, Samantha makes reference to a particular quality that she admired in her mother. It was not the quality of über-achievement (although she was very proud of this); it was the quality of compassion in her clinical practice. And when I looked up ‘Professor Veronica Delaney’ on the website of Mount Sinai Hospital last week I noted 2 items. Firstly, she is STILL accepting NEW patients (they should be so lucky!); and, secondly, her Patient Experience Rating was an almost perfect 4.9 Stars. These, in my judgement and, I know your agreement are the qualities that mark the truly exceptional Physician. 

Sixty-one years ago, Vera Delaney had the opportunity to enter UCC Medical School. She chose to take a different path, and I wonder was this because, somehow, she knew that she would be back here today…! 

And she is very welcome.


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