Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, has announced the appointment of Professor Niall O’Higgins as Chair of the National Screening Committee.
The appointment follows an open competition for the position of chair. Professor O’Higgins brings a wealth of experience to the role. He was extensively involved in establishing a system of breast cancer services and in BreastCheck, the National Breast Cancer Screening Service.
He was also Chairman of the Expert Group on colorectal cancer screening in Ireland, a body that was critical to the development of BowelScreen.
Welcoming the announcement, Minister Harris said:
Professor O’Higgins said:
Drawing on best practice and expertise from programmes in the United Kingdom and across Europe, the Committee will develop a set of criteria to be applied to new applications and to evaluate them against internationally-recognised standards.
The Scally Report (2018) recommended the establishment of a National Screening Committee.
The National Screening Committee will be an independent Expert Advisory Committee responsible for considering population screening programmes in Ireland against internationally accepted criteria.
Following on from the appointment of Prof Niall O’Higgins to the position of Chair, the remaining membership of the Committee will be recruited through an open call for membership in the coming months.
The Committee will hold its inaugural meeting later in 2019.
Niall O’Higgins is Professor Emeritus of Surgery, University College Dublin. Prof O’Higgins graduated from Medical School in University College Dublin and received his surgical training in Ireland and England.
He was appointed the Professor and Chair of the University College Dublin Department of Surgery and Consultant Surgeon (St Vincent’s University Hospital) in 1977, a position he held for over 30 years.
Prof O’Higgins is a general surgeon with special interest in surgical oncology, especially breast cancer. He’s been involved in over 300 scientific publications, mainly on breast cancer research and clinical surgery. He is Co-editor of a major textbook of surgery.
He is a former Chairperson of the University of Limerick Hospital Group.
He received an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and of the American College of Surgeons. He was awarded Honorary Fellowships from the College of Surgeons of South Africa, Bangladesh and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. He received the President’s Gold Medal of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
Prof O’Higgins is former President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, of the European Society of Surgical Oncology (1994-1998), and of the Federation of European Cancer Societies (1997-1999) and former Chairman of the Accreditation Council for Oncology in Europe (ACOE). He was also Chairman of the Editorial Board of the European Journal of Surgical Oncology (EJSO) from 2001 to 2008.
He was extensively involved in establishing a system of symptomatic breast cancer services and in BreastCheck, the National Breast Cancer Screening Programme and in the establishment of guidelines of quality of care for breast cancer in Ireland and in Europe. He was also Chairman of the Expert Group on colorectal cancer screening in Ireland, a group that was pivotal in the establishment of BowelScreen – The National Bowel Screening Programme.