The woman who guided Galway and the West through the global pandemic succeeds Tony Holohan as Ireland’s chief medical officer.
Professor Breda Smyth, director of public health at HSE West, has been promoted to acting CMO.
The Mayo native takes over on July 4 when Dr. Holohan steps down after 14 years in the role.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said Prof Smyth would fill the post, on secondment, on a short-term basis until a new permanent CMO is appointed.
Currently, she is Professor of Public Health Medicine at NUI Galway, Public Health Consultant for HSE West, and has specialized in Public Health for the past 16 years.
Professor Smyth was a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), which advised on Ireland’s response to the pandemic, including recommending restrictions and lockdown guidelines.
Professor Smyth said: ‘I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with colleagues across the Department of Health and across our health and social care services to build on the tremendous work being done, at the both before and during Covid-19, to promote and protect public health and the health and well-being of the people of Ireland.
“The pandemic has put public health in the spotlight, and I look forward to the opportunity to drive the public health agenda forward through important cross-government initiatives such as Healthy Ireland and Sláintecare to improve health and wellbeing. of the entire population, including marginalized groups and continue to address health inequalities.
Minister Donnelly said the process of recruiting a full-time replacement for Dr Holohan has begun.
He thanked Prof Smyth for holding the post “on an interim basis until an open competition for a permanent CMO is completed”.
Minister Donnelly said: “Professor Smith has a unique skill set with the requisite combination of academic, political and frontline experience having provided leadership, expert and professional public health advice nationally and in HSE West over the past few years. She has contributed significantly to the national response to Covid-19 in her many roles throughout the management of the pandemic.
“Professor Smyth brings this considerable experience, excellent leadership ability and broad public health skills to this role and I really look forward to working with her.”
The new acting CMO is also enjoying a hugely successful parallel life as an accomplished musician – part of a family that graced stages around the world…including last weekend at the Galway Folk Festival when she played at Monroe’s.
Hailing from Straide, she and her siblings Cora, Maria and Sean – a founding member of the Lunasa band – are no strangers to the spotlight. Cora and Sean, like her sister, are also qualified doctors and Maria, has a doctorate in biochemistry.
“Music was really a part of our lives,” she has said in the past. “Our mother, Nancy, was a teacher before we were born and she took us to classical music lessons. We played violins, flutes, bodhrans and piano – we tried a lot of instruments, but we really stuck with violin and flute.
She has toured and performed around the world as a violinist with Lord of the Dance and Michael Flately’s Feet of Flames, which included performances at the Ryder Cup and the prestigious Red Cross Ball for the Royal Family in Monaco.
Playing the fiddle and flute, she released her debut album ‘Basil and Thyme’ in 2002 and was subsequently named Irish Music Magazine’s Female Traditional Musician of the Year.
She has recorded and performed with many international artists including Paul Brady, Eddie Reader, Sharon Shannon, Gerry Douglas, Luka Bloom, Hazel O’Connor and many more.
Breda Smyth also married into another musical family; her husband is Jimmy Higgins, percussionists with the Stunning and more recently a familiar presence with Christy Moore.
They have two children, Blathnaid and Donal, who is an accomplished football player, who left Galway United on a sports scholarship with UCD.