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Obituary: Jim Dornan

Thumbnail of a painting of Professor Jim Dornan

Professor Jim Dornan MD FRCPI FRCOG

February 5th 1948 – March 15th 2021

The untimely death of James Connor Dornan has understandably led to heart-warming worldwide tributes.

Jim was a most successful and talented man with a life that spanned and succeeded in so much more than his achievements in medicine, in which he excelled. He was a skilled clinician who was loved by his patients.

Jim was a prodigious advocate for women and improving their healthcare across the globe. He was a stalwart supporter of the RCOG and was a prominent Fellow on the RCOG Council for 12 years. He was a visionary and very popular RCOG Senior Vice President from 2004-7, making friends and achieving admiration across the extensive RCOG International membership and beyond.

Jim’s CV is a model of achievement and his contribution to obstetrics in particular has been exemplary. His obituaries that will follow will be extensive and detail his career.

Jim was a consultant in Belfast for over 40 years culminating in being chair of Fetal Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast and chair of Health and Life Sciences at the Ulster University.

A challenging perspective with a rationalisation of arguments. He never shirked from taking on the establishment in the best interests of women.

He was a tremendous public speaker and very popular, with wide-ranging invitations to lecture, debate and speak. He was full of humour and happiness and would be the chosen dinner guest and speaker. No matter how many times you had heard him speak, he held your complete attention. His ability as a raconteur, legendary. It is no wonder that he was invited to speak in over 30 different countries.

Jim overcame leukaemia through which he carried on as if it were a mere inconvenience. His personal life hardships only driving him to take on increasing involvement in leading roles in several Northern Ireland charities. He was the founder of the Northern Ireland Mother and Baby Appeal in 1989 (now TinyLife) and he was also a major supporter of Pancreatic and Leukaemia charities. The tributes from these charities alone are indicative of his popularity, humanity and attainment.

Jim was a wonderful family man. After the tragic loss of his first wife, Lorna, he continued to be a tower of strength to his children, Leisa, Jessica and Jamie, whose wellbeing were always at the fore. In 2002 he married Samina, and their partnership quickly became symbiotic across their lives in general and in their devotion to fetal medicine. He kept his interest in fetal medicine until the end, with his last academic contribution being published in the BJOG in February this year on a topic he had long championed, identifying the high-risk fetus in the low-risk mother. Their decision to move to the Middle East, after such success, in their long- standing home of Northern Ireland, cannot have been easy, but was very much in keeping with their eagerness to take on yet more challenges as heads of department in prestigious institutions. In early 2020 Jim took on the position of head of department at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland in Bahrain. Jim and Samina’s onward success and popularity, developed in such a short time in their new roles, is testament to their combined personalities and abilities.

Jim was charitable, kind and personable across all walks of life. He had so many friends and his charisma invariably made him the centre of attention. He was so pleased and proud of the success of his children, each of whom have inherited his tremendous personable skills. His son, Jamie’s, success as an actor could, to those not in the know, appear to threaten to overpower Jim’s achievements; but Jamie himself would always correctly defer to his father’s achievements.

It is not possible to give Jim appropriate recognition in such a short tribute but suffice it to say he was truly a GREAT man. Those who knew him will feel a great loss and emptiness; his lovely family, his wife Samina and all those who knew him lament his passing. Samina has asked that I make specific mention of the three years that he was RCOG Senior Vice President during which the deep friendship between him, Prof Shaughn O’Brien (Vice President) and me, developed and then extended. These I am told were of the happiest and most productive years of his life. Shaughn and I take considerable solace in this knowledge.

There is no greater privilege for me than to write about Jim, who made such a contribution to life in general and his chosen career. He was a great friend and a great man. There will be so many who feel deprived of his company, love and enthusiasm for life.

Well done, Jim.

Richard Warren FRCOG
Honorary Secretary RCOG (2004-2011)