'Dad' of UK Renal Medicine Dies of COVID-19

Megan Brooks

January 06, 2021

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Dr Donal O'Donoghue

Professor Donal O'Donoghue, MBChB, OBE, a giant in kidney medicine and longtime registrar of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), died January 3 from COVID-19, aged 64.

O'Donoghue become unwell in mid-December and spent 2 weeks on the critical care unit of Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, prior to his death.

"Words cannot express how sad this has made all of us at the RCP," President Professor Andrew Goddard, MD, said in a statement. 

"Donal was the loveliest person and considered by many to be the 'big daddy' of British renal medicine. He was my friend, my wingman, and my confidant. I will miss him terribly," said Goddard.

Sandra Currie, chief executive of the charity Kidney Research UK, said the impact of his early death will be "profound across so many areas of the kidney community. Donal was a great advocate for research, particularly in the clinical setting."

Father of Modern Nephrology

Among his many accomplishments, O'Donoghue established and directed the Greater Manchester Renal Network and led the implementation of the Renal National Service Framework as national director of kidney care at the Department of Health. 

O'Donoghue served as inaugural president of the British Renal Society from 2000 to 2003. He served as president of the Renal Association from 2016 until 2018 and was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to kidney patients in 2018. 

Graham Lipkin, MD, current president of the Renal Association, called O'Donoghue a "titan of UK nephrology and medicine and an inspirational leader of our community, with over three decades of dedicated work focused on improving the care of patients with kidney disease." 

For more than 25 years, O'Donoghue worked at Salford Royal Hospital, part of the Northern Care Alliance NHS.

In a statement, its chief executive Raj Jain said O'Donoghue has "without doubt shaped modern nephrology and has driven medical advancement and research in kidney care."

O'Donoghue also served as chair of trustees for the patient charity Kidney Care UK since 2016.

In a statement, the charity said O'Donoghue was "an inspiration to so many in our community" and "tireless in his support for kidney patients, never hesitating to listen to all, to highlight inequalities and promote the best possible care for kidney patients." 

"Our thoughts and sympathies go to his wife Marie, their three children, and four grandchildren. The Renal Association and Royal College of Physicians will be holding a memorial in the summer when it is hoped we can all come together to celebrate and honor his life and incredible achievements."

The news of O'Donoghue's sudden passing prompted an outpouring of sadness and remembrances of him on Twitter.


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