History of the IAD

The following history of the Irish Association of Dermatologists has been recounted by one of its founders, Professor Desmond Burrows.

The Beginnings

Prior to 1963 there was little in the way of contact between dermatologists from north and south of Ireland.  Even though there were thriving dermatological departments in Dublin and Belfast before 1920, there had been little knowledge of what went on in each others city. 

In 1963 Dr Hall was asked to appear as an expert witness in Dundalk.  He suggested that it would be an interesting and educational experience for me to accompany him. 

Dr Donelan was there representing the other side in the legal case.  Dr Hall knew Dr Donelan, having previously met him in Paris and at World Congresses so naturally the conversation turned to what was happening dermatologically in the two cities.  At this court session it was discussed that a forum may be established to facilitate interrelations between dermatologists in Ireland. This together with negotiations to Dr Harry Viani, the secretary of the Dermatology Section of the Academy of Medicine in Dublin led directly to the establishment of the Irish Association of Dermatologists.

Dr Burrows (later Professor Burrows) wrote formally to Dr Viani on 15 March 1963:

“Dr Hall and I have felt for some time that it would be a good idea if we could meet together with the dermatologists in Dublin  . I have sounded out the other dermatologists and registrars in Northern Ireland and there is a favourable climate for this sort of thing”

Dr Viani replied on 25 March 1963:

“We welcome and entirely agree with your suggestion of holding meetings between the two groups … Since you have kindly offered to start the ball rolling I would suggest that you to ahead and decide on a date practical and convenient to all concerned…When we meet in Belfast we can arrange for the return visit to Dublin”

As a result of a further meeting between Dr Hall, Dr Donelan and me in Manchester in the summer, the date was arranged for 2 November 1963 in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, with Professor Ingram to give a guest lecture on 1 November 1963. This meeting was a great success and this was important because if it hadn’t been, there might never have been an Irish Association of Dermatologists or its formation might have been many years delayed.

It was agreed to have another meeting in the spring in Dublin and at that meeting to consider the formation of a Society.

There it was agreed to have the inaugural meeting in Belfast in October 1964.  The Irish Dermatological Society was the name chosen. I suggested we adopted the constitution of the North of England Dermatological Society. 

It was agreed that Dr Hall was to be the first President and Dr Burrows the first secretary. The inaugural meeting of the society was held in the Belfast City Hospital on 24 October 1964.

Meetings were to be on the last Saturday in April in Dublin and first Saturday in October in Belfast. The president and Secretary shall be elected every two years. 
The subscription of each Ordinary member was set at two guineas. 


Early Development

Several events took place which helped to establish the society and put it on the map.

The British Journal of Dermatology (BJD) was asked to publish selected cases from the two meetings and very readily agreed.  This practice was stopped some years later.

The North of England Dermatological Society was invited to have a joint meeting and this took place in Belfast on 15 October 1965.  Many distinguished dermatologists attended this meeting, included Dr Ian Snedden, Dr R Church, Dr FF Hellier (all Presidents of the BAD at one time). 

In those days neither attendance nor expenses were high.  There is a letter from Dr Mitchell to the Secretary on 8 May 1967 asking for payment for the lunch at the University Club, Stephens Green, Dublin.  Twenty five people attended, the lunch cost seventeen shillings each.


From an early stage sponsorship was important to the Society.  Over the years the Society has endeavoured to maintain a proper and ethical relationship with the drug firms.  At the beginning Glaxo, Stiefel and to a lesser extent Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) provided the major support. 

Coming of Age

A major advance came in 1978 with the first symposium, sponsored by Stiefel taking  place in Cork with Dr Donal Buckley in April 1978.  There were four main topics:

Contact Dermatitis:

Prof Charles Calnan, London
Prof S Fregert Lund, Sweden
Dr Alex Fisher, New York


Prof Colin Ramsey, Toronto
Dr John Hawk, London


Dr Neville Rowell, Leeds
Dr Terence Ryan, Oxford

Dermatological Education:

Undergraduate: Dr J Burton, Bristol
Postgraduate:  Prof J Hare, Edinburgh

On 19 September 1997 I had written to Mr Denis Love at Stiefel stating:

“We want to get off to a really good start and we wish to have the best possible programme and speakers………”.

Looking at this list nearly 25 years later, I am still amazed at the talent we were able to assemble for this beginning.  I certainly got us “off to a really good start”.


While the original intention was to have meetings alternately in Belfast and Dublin, Cork was quickly added to the circuit and was a very popular venue not only for its location but also for the very high standard of the cases and presentation.  Craigavon, Londonderry, Enniskillen, Coleraine, Masserene (Antrim) and Galway were added for regular visitations.  Only three meeting were held without clinical cases on Saturday; that was in the Europe Hotel, Killarney, Slieve Russell Hotel, Cavan and Sligo Park Hotel, Sligo.

Honoured Members

The Society was honoured to have two members who were presidents of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland:

Dr FJ O’Donnell 1955-58
Dr David Mitchell 1971-73

A number of decisions taken over the years marked the progress of the Society.

The name was changed to the Irish Association of Dermatologists in October 1996 to mark the increasing standing of the Society.

No member of the Association in the Republic was ever a member of the British Association of Dermatologists except Dr FJ O’Donnell who died in 1978.  The members of the BAD in the north felt there was no good reason for this and so, on the proposal of Dr Martin Beare at the annual meeting, all IAD members from the Republic were elected member in 1983.

A subcommittee of the President, Past President and Secretary was formed with limited posers, mainly to organise meetings.

Irish Research and Papers

In October 1981, prior to the clinical cases, several members presented short papers on aspects of contact dermatitis, a format which continued for many years. In 1983, it was decided to allocate one hour for presentations by junior staff.  This was a valuable extension of the programme.  It allowed a forum where the members could hear what research was going on in other departments but more importantly, it gave juniors an opportunity to “practice” their presentations in a friendly environment with helpful criticism.  Later a prize was given for the “best” presentation and in 1995, Professor Burrows, donated a cup, thereafter to be known as the “Burrows cup” to be added to the prize.  It was hoped that having a platform to present research would be a spur to further research.


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