Dr Margaret (Pearl) Dunlevy played a major role in the fight against TB.

A leading physician and epidemiologist from Mountcharles is one of eight extraordinary women being celebrated by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland this week.

A portrait of Dr Margaret (Pearl) Dunlevy has been unveiled in the Board Room of RCSI’s historic building on St. Stephen’s Green.

Dr Margaret (Pearl) Dunlevy. Artist: Benita Stoney

Dr Margaret (Pearl) Dunlevy’s career was marked with many pioneering achievements in healthcare.

Born in 1909 in Mountcharles, she was the fifth of six children of George Dunlevy, shopkeeper and merchant, and Maggie Dunlevy (née Doherty).

Turlough O’Riordan from the Dictionary of Irish Biography writes: “After attending the Loreto Convent, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, and St Louis Convent, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan, Dunlevy commenced medical studies at RCSI. Taught by Sir Thomas Myles, she received her licence in 1932, coming first in her class.”

Dunlevy was a surgeon in hospitals across England before gaining a UCD diploma in public health in 1936 and returning to Donegal to work as a temporary assistant county medical officer of health.

Dr Pearl Dunlevy

She then moved to Dublin in 1938, where she took up the post of medical officer at Crooksling tuberculosis sanatorium.

Dunlevy established the Dublin Corporation’s primary TB clinic. She then set up a childhood BCG vaccination scheme in Dublin, at a time when Pulmonary TB was widespread.

By 1953, the Dublin Corporation BCG scheme had reduced childhood TB deaths by 82 per cent.

Dunlevy also oversaw polio vaccination programmes and rubella screening for those in early pregnancy.

Her work was highly-recognised, which led to several major appointments, including being elected as the first woman president of the Biological Society of RCSI.

She died in Dublin in 2002.

Dunlevy’s portrait was created by commissioned artist Benita Stoney. Details on viewings are available at: http://women.rcsi.com