The obituary of Sister Catherine Patricia Renahan former Head of the School of Radiography at St Vincent’s Hospital

The death has been announced of Sister Catherine Patricia Renahan, former Head of the School of Radiography at St. Vincent’s Hospital.
Born in Kanturk, Sister Patricia entered the Religious Sisters of Charity with her sibling Mary, and trained as a Radiographer in St. Vincent’s Hospital School of Radiography on St. Stephen’s Green. This School of Radiography was established in 1934, and had informal associations with the Medical School of University College Dublin. As Radiographer education became more structured under the direction of the Society of Radiographers, it became apparent that the Dublin Radiography School was in need of re-organisation. The School was temporarily closed in 1964, and Sister Patricia was tasked with travelling to centres in the United Kingdom to research prevailing approaches to Radiographer education, a project she undertook with enthusiasm, making life-long friends of many leading figures in Radiography.

In 1967 the School of Radiography re-opened with Sister Patricia as the Principal, a position she held until her retirement in 1993. Over her nearly thirty years “in office”, Sister Patricia guided Radiographer education in Ireland through many developments. The two year Diploma course was extended in the late seventies, and by the early eighties all Radiographers studied for three years. During this time, the training course in Ireland was centrally directed by the UK Society of Radiographers, as it was elsewhere in the world. However, under Sister Patricia’s leadership, UCD pioneered degree level education for Radiographers in 1987, offering the first entry to a Bachelor’s degree programme for the discipline anywhere in the world. Running simultaneously, Sister Patricia supported staff in developing postgraduate education in Ultrasound, Radionuclide Imaging and Computed Tomography.

Throughout these many and sometimes ground-breaking developments, a key feature of Sister Patricia’s leadership was her willingness to delegate responsibility and let staff take the lead. She was always receptive to staff ideas, no matter how new or inexperienced the staff member might be, and always encouraged initiative. Her support for her staff was second only to her kindness and concern for their personal lives in a supportive and respectful manner. And indeed, this kindness extended more widely to the many generations of Radiography students that she taught. Students could rely on Sister Patricia for detailed lecture notes concerning three phase circuits, coffee and biscuits during late night revision sessions, and a kind word or tissue after a particularly challenging final viva voce examination! But none of these memories reflect Sister Patricia’s sense of fun and her great story telling ability. Sister Patricia had a shrewd eye for the humour in most situations, and could recount anecdotes in a manner that would have staff in tears of laughter.

Indeed, Sister Patricia was one of life’s truly wonderful people. It was her groundwork as a novice Radiography teacher in the 1960s that established modern Radiography education in Ireland. It was her leadership that launched the careers of many Radiography teaching staff. It was her kindness and compassion that inspired generations of Irish Radiographers. Today, Irish Radiography is an independent and still developing profession. This is the legacy of Sister Catherine Patricia Renahan.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis