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Present at the Laura Brennan portrait unveiling at RCPI were Larry and Bernie Brennan, Laura’s parents and Prof Mary Horgan, President of the RCPI Photo: Kenneth O Halloran.

Late Laura Brennan honoured with Dublin portrait

A PORTRAIT of the late Ennis health campaigner Laura Brennan has been unveiled at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

Laura, who died in 2019 of cervical cancer aged just 26, worked tirelessly in her final months to promote the HPV vaccine. Laura’s portrait is the first of a health advocate who is not a doctor to be added to the RCPI’s collection.

Laura’s family travelled to Dublin for the unveiling, describing the portrait as a “fitting tribute to Laura who was a truly wonderful person and is testament to her outstanding contribution to boosting the take up of the HPV vaccine in Ireland. Her legacy will continue  into the future and we are delighted to be here today in this historic building for this very special occasion.”

The portrait was launched at the start of the RCPI annual flagship event, St Luke’s Symposium that focuses this year on Global Vaccination. The painting has been hung in the Stearne room in No 6 Kildare street, the home of the RCPI since 1864. It will be available to the public to view.

The RCPI commissioned this portrait in acknowledgement of Laura’s outstanding contribution to boosting the take up of the HPV vaccine.

Laura’s positivity throughout her own illness and her willingness to share her own personal story for the good of others resulted in an uptake rate of 70%.

RCPI’s portrait collection contains work, primarily by Irish artists, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries.

The collection has been developed by the College through commission and donations over the past three hundred years.

It provides a compelling visual record of the leading personalities of Irish medicine, while highlighting the gendered nature of the medical profession. While female medics are underrepresented in the collections, there are several works are by female artists including Lily Williams, Sarah Purser and Maria Hunter. 

Laura’s portrait is unusual in showing a much younger individual. The renowned artist Catherine Creaney has exhibited throughout the UK, Ireland and Europe and has won multiple awards for her work including: The ESB Keating Award and Silver Medal for an outstanding art work at the 185th Royal Hibernian Academy Annual Exhibition and First Place in the Artist’s Magazine All-Media Online Competition (2014).

Professor Mary Horgan, RCPI President said, “Laura’s beautiful portrait will be a constant reminder to doctors and so many people for generations to come of the power of advocacy to improve the health of the nation. Despite her being so unwell from her disease and its treatment, Laura’s voice was always strong as she continued to advocate for HPV vaccine for as long as she could. Laura’s tireless work was a great example of doctors and advocates working together in a powerful way. 

“We are very honoured that she will be joining us at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. She will be a constant inspiration and source of admiration and a reminder to all of us of the power of advocacy and the health of the nation.’’


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