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Profile: Who is new Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn?

Glynn is taking over the role after Dr Tony Holohan announced he is stepping aside for family reasons.

Dr Ronan Glynn
Dr Ronan Glynn
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

LAST NIGHT, DR Tony Holohan announced he is stepping down as Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health to spend more time with his family. 

Holohan’s wife Emer, who was diagnosed with a form of blood cancer in 2012, was admitted for palliative care last Saturday, Holohan revealed. 

The announcement was met with an outpouring of goodwill for Holohan and his family. Taoiseach Micheál Martin echoed the sentiments of many when he said that the CMO’s work and experience “helped people to understand the gravity of the situation facing us, while his calmness reassured us that if we followed the guidelines and advice we would overcome these great challenges together”.

Dr Ronan Glynn, the deputy CMO, has been appointed Acting Chief Medical Officer and will now chair the Department of Health’s bi-weekly press conferences.

So, who is Dr Glynn, what experience does he have and what role has he played in Ireland’s battle with Covid-19 to date? 

Public health 

Dr Glynn graduated UCD in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy. He then went on to qualify as a medical doctor in 2007 after studying at the University of Aberdeen. 

In 2012, he completed a laboratory based PhD in surgical oncology. In 2015, Dr Glynn completed his Masters in Public Health at UCD. 

Dr Glynn is also a fellow of the International Society for Quality in Health Care and he has specialised in Public Health Medicine and Epidemiology. 

He worked as a doctor with the HSE between 2008 and 2018. 

Since October 2018, Dr Glynn has been Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health.

Covid-19 crisis 

Since March, Dr Glynn has participated in the Covid-19 press briefings at the Department of Health alongside Dr Tony Holohan – giving at first daily weekday updates on developments and more recently twice-weekly ones. 

From time to time, Dr Glynn has led the briefings when Dr Holohan has been absent. 

At the briefings, Dr Glynn takes questions from the media on specific elements of Covid-19 and tends to have data available on matters such as outbreaks and clusters in settings like meat factories or among vulnerable people. 

He also regularly takes questions regarding children and educational settings. 

Questions regarding scientific studies conducted about Covid-19 in other countries are often also sent his way.

From time to time, he has spoken at the briefings about patient experiences with Covid-19. 

For example, on 11 June, he warned that many people are suffering from prolonged side effects from Covid-19, despite having recovered from the illness. 

As Covid-19 is a very new infection medics are still learning about how it affects people over time. Dr Glynn explained that it’s not unusual for people to take a long time to recover after a significant respiratory illness, but that medics still need to closely monitor people for prolonged side effects.

National Public Health Emergency Team

In addition to stepping into Dr Holohan’s role as Chief Medical Officer, Dr Glynn is taking over his role as chairperson of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

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Nphet was convened at the end of January this year to coordinate the country’s response to Covid-19. 

Since then, members of the team have been front and centre, guiding the government in its actions and driving the public messaging around Covid-19. 

Nphet takes its lead from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and is tasked with overseeing and providing “expert advice, guidance, support and direction for the overall national response” on both a regional and national level.

According to the Department of Health, Nphet’s Terms of Reference include overseeing and providing direction, directing the collection and analysis of required data, directing communications at local, regional and national level and evaluating the readiness of Ireland’s health service to manage Covid-19. 

Nphet currently meets twice per week and, according to the Department, actions, decisions and recommendations are made by consensus of all members. 

Dr Glynn has been on the Nphet team since January. He chaired his first meeting of the team last night.

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