Dr Paule Cotter – an Outstanding Role Model

2 Nov 2017

Paule Cotter, MD, FRCPath, FRCP, died on October 9, aged 74, after a short illness.

Katherine Paule Cotter was Consultant Haematologist at Cork University Hospital (CUH), and a Senior Lecturer in Pathology at University College Cork. She led the Haematology Department with unmatched dedication and commitment from 1979 to 2004.

She always set herself the highest professional standards, and lived up to them. She gave top priority to her clinical service; patients came first. Her commitment to them was faultless and they received the highest contemporary standards of care throughout. Her success in this was reciprocated in the respect in which they held her and the empathy which they had with her – a rare relationship.

Her standing among her CUH colleagues and among the wider medical profession was unique. This stemmed from the wise and balanced counsel, combined with the impeccable courtesy and generosity, which marked her professional relationships. Through this, she contributed inestimably to the working of the hospital.

She made outstanding contributions in many other equally meticulous ways. These included her chairmanship (her preferred description of the role) of the Consultant Medical Staff Committee from 1997 to 1999. She held several other significant national and professional appointments, including membership of the 7th Comhairle na nOspidéal (1992 – 1995). She was the first woman Dean of the Faculty of Pathology in Ireland. She excelled in teaching, and this is reflected in the awards she received. She continued to be active in UCC and Cork medical life after her retirement, as, for example, chair of the UCC Medical Graduates’ Association, and also chair of the Windle Club (which she founded) for the retired consultants of UCC teaching hospitals.

She provided evidence to the Lindsay Tribunal on hepatitis C and HIV infection of haemophilia patients (1999 – 2002).

Paule Cotter was a star medical student. She qualified in 1966 with first class honours in all subjects, always a rare achievement, but particularly so in those times before grade inflation had been heard of. She trained in general medicine in Birmingham and took her MRCP at a particularly early stage. She then trained in Haematology and, after taking her MRCPath, she was appointed as consultant haematologist at the Coventry and Warwick Hospital. From here she returned to Cork to develop the Haematology Department at CUH. This was at a time when female consultants were few in number. The Departmental establishment is now four consultants (as it happens, all are female as this is written).

While her professional standing was of the highest, she will be remembered as much for her remarkable personal qualities. Whoever met her was struck by her social warmth, her modest, unassuming manner, her generosity and her restrained and delicate sense of humour. All were at ease in her company and her friendship was uniquely valued. In a lady of such quality it is no surprise that there was a significant deep and thoughtful private side to her. From this emerged her views and opinions, which were clear, strongly held and always courteously expressed, often with an overlay of understated humour. She understood the fragile and absurd facets of humanity.

She was a stylish and highly cultured lady. Her wide interests ranged from travel, through literature and opera to chamber music. She travelled extensively, particularly with her late husband, Dr PJ McGrath. She always read outside her professional discipline. Her interest in opera took her across, and beyond, Europe. However, it was her commitment to West Cork Music which stands out. She supported and in so many ways promoted the West Cork Chamber Music Festival from its very beginning. She was a key catalyst throughout the 22 years of its growth and development, helping in so many ways to bring it to the high standing which it holds today. She, with her late husband, gave legendary receptions at their home during Festival time, welcoming in particular the young musicians. To the end, she remained a steadfast and pivotal member of the West Cork Music Board. At its meetings her measured common sense brought many a flight of fancy gently and firmly into the realm of reality.

Her life, professional, personal and cultural, her standards and her commitment, mark her as an outstanding role model for any aspiring doctor, female or male.

Paule Cotter came from a prominent Bantry business family. In 1984 she married Dr PJ McGrath of UCC, who had previously been Professor of Philosophy at Maynooth. He predeceased her in 2011. She is survived by her siblings Helen, Mary, Denis, Margie and Jeremy.

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