We are very sad to announce that Dr Connor Mulholland is retiring as Chair of the charity’s Board of Directors. Dr Mulholland has been a driving force behind the charity since its beginning in the early 1980’s and his outstanding leadership and commitment to the charity and our heart families is deeply appreciated.
Fellow Director and former colleague, Paediatric Cardiologist Dr Brian Craig, has below shared an overview of the role and positive impact Dr Mulholland has played both for the charity and paediatric cardiology in N.Ireland.
“In 1976 Dr Connor Mulholland was appointed the very first dedicated Paediatric Cardiologist in Belfast. The early years of his work were devoted to stabilising and making an accurate diagnosis in many ill infants and older children with heart disease. To this end he created a dedicated inpatient facility and held outpatients clinics both at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and the Ulster hospital in Dundonald.
In 1983 he had the vision to encourage parents to form a support group called Heartbeat and he became a founder trustee. One of Heartbeats first public roles was to successfully lobby Stormont Officials to create a second Consultant Post in Paediatric Cardiology which was appointed in 1986.
The 1980’s saw major advances in diagnosis and treatment for infants and children with heart disease, with the establishment of interventional cardiac catheterisation and a parallel improvement in the range of surgery available and in the outcomes following surgery. Dr Mulholland had the foresight to appoint a clinical psychologist to the cardiac unit which became the springboard for collaborative research projects into the important psychosocial aspects of congenital heart disease. Guided by his desire to improve services for children with heart disease the charity looked to support the major Congenital Heart Intervention Project (CHIP) and the development of telemedicine placing Belfast at the leading edge of using technology to deliver patient care.
In 2003 Dr Mulholland was appointed Chairman of the Trustees of Heartbeat and was instrumental in appointing a full time Executive Officer and overseeing a change of name to the Children’s Heartbeat Trust, to reflect the aims and work of the charity. He provided important support and continuity throughout this period of change as the charity developed to better meet family support needs. Throughout the recent campaigning Dr Mulholland was a determined and vocal advocate for children and families, providing important advice to the Minister of Health.
Throughout three decades Dr Mulholland has encouraged, supported and led the charity through times of political uncertainty and periods of financial austerity in Health Service funding. His voice has at all times been one of reason and he has never failed to support those for whom the charity exists – children and young people with heart disease and their families. As he steps down as Chair this year this is the legacy he with others has created and a vision that we must maintain.