NUI Galway’s Professor Breda Smyth has been announced as the interim Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Health.
Professor Smyth is replacing Dr Tony Holohan, who is retiring at the end of this month after 14 years on the job.
She will take up the role of interim CMO from July 4, pending the completion of an open competition for a permanent replacement.
Professor Smyth has extensive clinical experience and has specialised in public health for the last 16 years.
She is currently Professor for Public Health Medicine in NUI Galway and Consultant in Public Health in HSE West.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that he was conscious the need to have someone in the Chief Medical Officer’s seat to continuing monitoring the situation with COVID-19, while awaiting a permanent replacement.
“Professor Smith has a unique skill set with the requisite mix of academic, policy and frontline experience having provided leadership, expert and professional guidance of Public Health nationally and in HSE West over the last number of years.”
“She has contributed significantly to the national response to COVID-19 in her many roles throughout the management of the pandemic.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Breda Smyth served on the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), as well as the Rapid Testing Expert Advisory Group.
She was also the Chief Investigator for the UniCov study lead by NUI Galway, which aimed to facilitate a return to campus through rapid testing and intervention.
The role of the Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Health was not one of great public awareness prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent years, Dr Holohan, and his deputy Dr Ronan Glynn, have been the public face of the government’s response to the pandemic on a daily basis.
Prof Smyth said that she is excited to work will colleagues at the Department to build on the work done before and during the pandemic, to promote public health.
“The pandemic has placed a spotlight on public health, and I look forward to the opportunity to advance the public health agenda through important, cross-government initiatives like Healthy Ireland and Sláintecare.”
She added that these would help to “improve the health and wellbeing of the entire population, including marginalised groups, and continuing to address inequities in health.”