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Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI; Irish: Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn) is a professional association and educational institution that is responsible for the medical speciality of surgery throughout the island of Ireland. Uniquely among the four mutually recognised royal surgical colleges in the United Kingdom and Ireland, it also incorporates a medical school, which is now Ireland's largest with over 3,000 students from 60 countries.

The RCSI's main campus is situated on St. Stephen's Green in Dublin, having received its royal charter in 1784. At present, it incorporates schools of medicine, pharmacy, physiotherapy and nursing, and thus provides both undergraduate and postgraduate levels of education and research activities in a number of healthcare fields.


Since medieval times, the practice of surgery was licensed by the Barber-Surgeons' Guild, also known at the time as the Guild of St Mary Magdalene. The guild chapel was in Christ Church Cathedral. Guild membership at that time was obtained by a 3-year apprenticeship followed by 2 years as a master. In fact the College of Surgeons maintained a mandatory period of apprenticeship to a qualified surgeon until 1828.

In 1446, the Guild of St Mary Magdelene (of Barbers) was incorporated by royal decree of Henry VI, becoming the first medical corporation in Britain or Ireland.

In 1765 Sylvester O'Halloran, a surgeon from Limerick, proposed a College of Surgeons along the lines of the College de St. Cosme in Paris, which had been regulating French surgeons since it had been created by Royal Charter by Louis IX in 1255, to train and regulate surgeons.[4] The Dublin Society of Surgeons was founded in 1780 at the Elephant public house on Essex street (now Parliament street). Trinity College did not teach surgery as a subject until 1851, so Ireland was entirely without a school focused on surgery.

To have a separate organisation focused on providing standardised surgical education became one of the goals of the society and they lobbied for a Royal Charter, in 1781 presenting the Lord Lieutenant a petition to be incorporated separately from the barbers. The awaited charter was granted by King George III on 11 February 1784. The governing body, including the first president Samuel Croker-King and William Dease, first professor of surgery, met in the boardroom of the Rotunda Hospital for the first time on 2 March. Importantly, admission or employment was not discriminated against on sectarian grounds. Two of its chief founders, Sylvester O'Halloran and William Dease, as well as eleven out of its first 57 presidents, were Catholics. The college also recognised the medical qualifications given by the Catholic university from 1856, which gave legitimacy to their diplomas. The first candidate for examination was John Birch, in August 1784.

The current location, at the corner of York Street, was acquired in September 1805, with additional land at Glover's Alley bought in 1809.

A supplemental charter was granted by Queen Victoria in 1844, dividing medical graduates into Licentiates and Fellows. Initially, physicians were trained alongside surgeons. In 1886 these two disciplines were merged, and the medical school began operation. As a result of this historical legacy, graduates of medicine still receive Licentiate diplomas from the two Royal Colleges as well as now being awarded MB (Bachelor of Medicine) BCh (Bachelor of Surgery) and BAO (Bachelor of the Art of Obstetrics) degrees by the National University of Ireland.

During the 1916 Rising, the main college building on St Stephen's Green was occupied by Irish Citizen Army forces, led by Commandant Michael Mallin and Countess Markievicz. After surrendering, both were tried and sentenced to death. Mallin was executed while Markievicz's sentence was commuted due to her gender.

The RCSI was the first medical institution of learning to offer a 4-year graduate entry programme for medicine in Ireland. Now defunct subjects taught include: Logic (1852–1862), Military Surgery (1851–1860), Botany (1792–1889) and Hygiene or Political Medicine (1841–1921, then united with chair of Medical Jurisprudence).

Since the 1980s Beaumont Hospital, Dublin has been the principal centre for medical training. Other affiliated hospitals include teaching hospitals such as Connolly Hospital, Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, and St. Joseph's Hospital, Dublin, and there is now a group within the HSE hospital management structure, the RCSI Hospitals group.

In 2010, Prof. Eilis McGovern became President of the RCSI and thereby the first female President of any surgical Royal College in the world.[5][6]

The RCSI motto, "Consilio Manuque" (Scholarship and Dexterity), was adopted from the College de St. Cosme in Paris, which had been afforded the motto by Louis XIV. It was originally "Consiloque Manuque", his personal motto.

Academic structure

  • School of Medicine (5 or 6-year programme, 4-year Graduate Entry Programme)
  • School of Pharmacy
  • School of Physiotherapy

Values and admissions

RCSI is a culturally diverse, international organisation with alumni present in almost every country in the world.

RCSI now offers undergraduate degrees in Medicine, Pharmacy and Physiotherapy and is the largest Irish medical school.

Student life

Students at RCSI are encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities that promote service in the community and cultural awareness.

The Students' Union (SU) is an annually elected body, consisting of 8 officers.

The Biological Society (BioSoc) is the official student society of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and claims to be the oldest student medical society in the world.

International aspects and operations

As a leading international medical institution, RCSI is active in all medically related sectors of education around the globe.

In 2007 RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons Ireland) in conjunction with Valentia Technologies, the Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB), and the Pre Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC) launched unique training initiative with the Emergency Medical Services Dubai Training Institute.

In Malaysia, RCSI, together with University College Dublin (UCD), owns a branch campus within George Town, the capital city of the State of Penang. Established in 1996, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and University College Dublin Malaysia Campus (RUMC), formerly known as the Penang Medical College, offers twinning programmes in which students typically spend the first half of their courses in either RCSI or UCD, before completing the courses back at RUMC.[10] Meanwhile, the Perdana University Royal College of Surgeon in Ireland (PU-RCSI) in the State of Selangor was established in 2011. The programme hosts up to 100 students per year on its 5-year undergraduate medical programme, the first cohort graduated in 2016.

RCSI-Bahrain is a fully owned constituent university of RCSI and already has nearly 450 registered students. The first cohort commenced medical studies in October 2004 and graduates are entitled to a Degree of Bachelor of Medicine, NUI, Bachelor of Surgery, Bachelor of Obstetrics MB, BCh, BAO (NUI, RCSI) degree. In 2006 the Medical University of Bahrain established a new School of Nursing which took its first cohort of students in September 2006. Since 2009 students can also obtain the degrees conferred upon RCSI graduates from the National University of Ireland.

For students at the home institution of RCSI, options may be taken abroad as a result of collaborative agreements with other medical schools around the world.

More than 60 countries from each continent are represented in the RCSI student body.

Notable alumni

See also

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