Monday 22 January 2018

John E Drumm

Obstetrician who developed the use of ultrasound as a diagnostic tool

John E Drumm who died unexpectedly last July aged 67 was a leading obstetrician and gynaecologist and former Master of the Coombe Hospital, Dublin.

He was educated at Blackrock College, Dublin, and went on to study medicine at UCD graduating in 1966.

He was the eldest son of the late Dr Joe and Judy Drumm, of Birr, Co Offaly.

John undertook his early training in obstetrics at the Coombe and at Marsden Green Maternity Hospital, Birmingham, England, from where he returned to the Coombe in 1971 to be appointed Assistant Master a year later, and as a consultant in 1976.

His appointment as Master of the Coombe (1985-1992) was greeted with much enthusiasm, especially by the staff who gave him a standing ovation on the day after the announcement.

He had ambitious plans for the hospital, however, at a time of severe cutbacks in public funding.

His personality and management skills brought out the best in people and under his stewardship the Coombe maintained its reputation for outstanding maternity care.

He gave and got respect and he always had special regard for experienced midwives and theatre nurses.

All who worked with John Drumm saw strong leadership at first hand.

John Drumm was foremost amongst obstetricians in Ireland as he encouraged and developed the use of ultrasound as a diagnostic tool in maternity care, having receiving his initial training in the sub-speciality at Marsden Green.

As a young obstetrician his early work researching umbilical artery blood flow was furthered in collaboration with vascular physician Dr D E FitzGerald, which led to the publication in the British Medical Journal 1977 of 'Non-Invasive Measurement of Human Fetal Circulation using Ultrasound'. This research evolved into the recognition of imminent fetal death in high-risk pregnancies and is now shared worldwide.

Hundreds of thousand of compromised pregnancies owe their successful outcome to his research.

In his work, John Drumm saw at first hand patients who were suffering the nightmare of domestic violence. Through his kindness and tenacity, patients confided in him, and he is known to have helped those who were prisoners of this terrible plight to escape.

During his term as Master he negotiated a close relationship with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at TCD, and TCD offered him a clinical professorship, which he declined.

He later worked as consultant gynaecologist at the Meath, and then at Tallaght Hospital. He retired in 2008.

He was a practical man who "didn't do status" and he liked nothing more in recent years than to do some DIY around the house or to develop his culinary skills.

As a colleague of his said, "We would have wished to get another 10 years, but we got 67 years of a wonderful life."

He is survived by his wife Eileen, by children Claire, Paul, Michael, David, Jennifer, Peter and Sarah, his brother Peter, sisters Anne, Margaret and Mary, also by Nancy and grandchildren.

Sunday Independent

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