Northern Ireland

Physician and kidney transplant pioneer Mollie McGeown to be honoured with blue plaque

Aghagallon-born Mollie McGeown, whose work increased the survival rate of kidney transplant patients.
Aghagallon-born Mollie McGeown, whose work increased the survival rate of kidney transplant patients. Aghagallon-born Mollie McGeown, whose work increased the survival rate of kidney transplant patients.

A blue plaque is to be unveiled in Co Armagh in honour of the groundbreaking work of one of the north's best-known clinical scientists who helped increase survival rates for kidney transplant patients.

Mollie McGeown, who died in 2004 at the age of 100, was a pioneer of kidney transplantation and founded what would become the Northern Ireland Renal Service in 1958.

A blue plaque erected by the Ulster History Circle is to be unveiled at her former school, Lurgan College, on Friday by her grandson, Johnny Freeland.

The renowned physician was born in the Aghagallon area near Lurgan in 1923, and after attending Lurgan College went on to study medicine at Queen's University Belfast.

Following a period as a research fellow at the Royal Victoria Hospital, working on the causes of renal stones, she went on to head a new dedicated kidney facility in Belfast City Hospital in 1958, at a time when over 200 people were dying of kidney failure each year in the north.

In the early years of kidney transplantation, she established a low-dose steroid regimen for patients which dramatically increased survival rates, and became known among physicians as the 'Belfast Recipie'.

Her work led her to become the first woman to be elected to the British Association of Urological Surgeons, and she was later appointed president of the Ulster Medical Society.

In 1985 she was awarded a CBE for services to medicine, while on the 50th anniversary of the NHS in 1988, she was named among 50 women who had contributed most to its success. 

The renal unit at Belfast City Hospital is named in her honour.

Chair of the Ulster History Circle, Chris Spurr, said: "Mollie McGeown gained the highest reputation for her contributions to the research and treatment of kidney disease in Northern Ireland.

"Her pioneering work on successful and lifesaving transplant programmes benefited countless numbers of patients and won her many accolades. The Ulster History Circle is delighted to commemorate this distinguished nephrologist with a blue plaque at her old school, and the Circle is particularly grateful to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for their financial support, and to Lurgan College for their valued assistance."