Foundation of ISHA
The Irish Student Health Association was originally founded circa 1972. The inaugural meeting was held in Trinity College Dublin, with Dr. Jackie Wallace, TCD in the Chair. The Association initially catered for both University doctors and Boarding School doctors.
Dr. Wallace, a Trinity Scholar in Classics, prior to studying medicine, in his opening address coined a new term for the subspecialty Student Health – ‘Hebeatrics’ (Hebe being the Goddess of Youth). He likened this to paediatrics and geriatrics.
Dr. Jackie Wallace was elected as the first President of ISHA. The first female president was Dr. Helen Watson, the doctor to Trinity Hall, then a female hall of residence in Dartry. It was Dr. Watson who presented a Presidents medal, that now forms part of the Chain of Office, which itself was designed by West’s Jewellers, Grafton Street. Each year the chain is inscribed with the name of the serving president and the year.
Decline and Resurrection
Through the late seventies, with the decline in the number of boarding schools, interest declined, and regular annual meetings went into abeyance. However, those involved in Irish third level health, notably Robin Harland QUB, Robin Nelson, David Thomas, Sinead O’Brien TCD, Alan O’Grady and Peter Fahy, UCD and Robin Godfrey UCC became involved with the UK Student Health Association and regularly attended their Annual General Meetings. Dr. Robin Nelson was elected President of BASHE, British Association of Student Health in 1976, and with the support of his Irish colleagues, hosted the BASHE Conference in 1977 in Trinity College Dublin, and again in 1985. In preparation for the 1985 conference the Irish Student Health Association was revived once more.
The Association has had many ups and downs during its history, but there was always someone willing to take up the challenge of keeping the Association alive. In 2003 Nurse Hannah Glackin, along with Dr. Mary Mc Fadden and Ann Marie Kelly, hosted the conference in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Letterkenny and the following year in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Athlone and from there the Association went from strength to strength, until it hit another bump in the road in 2013. Nurse Alice Meagher from LIT together with the LYIT team resurrected it once more and brought the conference back to Letterkenny in 2014. That year, the LYIT crew broke new ground in developing the brand with a view to increasing awareness of ISHA.
The 2014/2015 period, brought a further new development with regular teleconferencing being utilised for the first time by the serving executive committee for the organisation and management of the Association. This facilitated the setting up of an executive committee comprising of members from a variety of different 3rd level institutions from all around the country. It was something that worked really well, aside from the small fact that many of the committee didn’t physically recognise one another when they first met up for the annual conference at The Crowne Plaza Hotel, that was, until they spoke!
2006 was the year that heralded the Association’s first foray into the world of IT and internet communications, with the introduction of the ISHA website. The site was developed by Dr. Brendan Clune and Nurse Barbara O’Connell, in association with IONIC Business Systems who developed a logo for ISHA. The website went live in January 2007 and was officially launched at the conference in Dublin on 2nd March 2007. The original ISHA website was upgraded in February 2016, and the new ISHA website was developed by IONIC Business Systems in 2022.
The ISHA Student Health Matters App was developed in 2020. https://www.isha.ie/article/student-health-matters-app-15 The app is free and available to download at:
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Dr David Thomas TCD '99-'00 · Dr Abdul Bulbulia '00-'01 (Waterford IT) · Dr Sandra Tighe UCD '01-'02 · Dr Paula Walsh NUIG '02-'03 · Dr Mary McFadden LYIT '03-'04 · RGN Geraldine McDermott UCD '04-'05 · Dr Brendan Clune DIT '05-'07 · Dr Michael Byrne UCC '07-'08 · Dr Denis Gaffney NUIM '08-'09 · Dr David McGrath TCD '09-'10 · Dr Fionnguala Lysaght NUIG '10-'11 · Dr Fiona Thompson UCD '11-'12 · Dr Niall Cahill '12-'13 · RGN Hannah Glackin LYIT '13-'15 · Dr Eoin Mac Donncha NUIG '15-'17 · RGN Laura Tully AIT ’17-‘18. Dr Aoife O Sullivan UCC '19 -'21. Moira O Loughlin UCD '21 -'22.
Dr Serena O' Connell, University of Galway '22-'23
The Association is thankfully now back in a very strong position, with large numbers attending our annual conference and AGM, which remains the cornerstone event of our calendar.
Towards the future
ISHA has been supporting members throughout the challenges of the Covid 19 pandemic which catapulted our student health services into adapting to and integrating telemedicine into their services overnight. The challenges associated with increasingly remote and distant medicine and the health care implications of Covid 19 on workload, safety of delivering care and staff safety has meant a particularly stressful time for student health units around the country, and has led to a period of unprecedented and rapid change. Support was needed for members to help them pivot online to telemedicine as well as adapt to a whole new set of student needs.
In 2021 the association elected its first non-clinical president, Moira O Loughlin of UCD, bringing a different perspective to the association. The association also updated the membership list and revamped the website, streamlining its functionality and keeping it current.