Owen C. Ward

Owen Conor Ward

Owen Conor Ward (1923-2021) an Irish paediatrician and cardiologist.

Eponymously affiliated with Romano-Ward Syndrome which he described in 1964, independent of Cesarino Romano (described 1963)

As one of the first Paediatric cardiologist in Ireland he fronted the development of cardiac services for children. Well known as a worldwide educator and a dedicated advocate for sick children and their families.


Biography
  • Born on August 27, 1923 in Monaghan, Ireland
  • 1946 – Graduated in Medicine from University College Dublin (UCD)
  • 1951 – Doctorate in Paediatric cardiology, University of Liverpool; thesis on hypoglycemia in neonates
  • 1956 – Paediatrician at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Dublin
  • 1970 – Professor Paediatrics UCD
  • 1979 – Vice-president Royal College Physicians, Ireland
  • 1990 – Post retirement served in various roles for Royal College Surgeons (Ireland), European Association of Paediatric Cardiologists, Irish Paediatric Association, Irish Cardiac Society, Irish Heart Foundation, Association for the Welfare of Children in Hospital, Down’s Syndrome Association.
  • 2000 – PhD in medical history (UCD) for his work on Langdon Down & Down’s Syndrome
  • 2008 – Aged 85 years retired from Undergraduate teaching at St George’s Medical School, London.
  • 2016 – Honorary degree, Doctor of Science honoris causa from UCD. He received this award on the same day as his Grandson, Dr Cian Ward, graduated in medicine.
  • Died on December 22, 2021 in Teddington, London

Medical Eponyms
Romano-Ward Syndrome (1964)

Congenital (autosomal dominant) long QT syndrome (LQTS). Unlike Jervell-Lange-Nielsen, there is no congenital hearing loss present. Multiple genetic mutations identified linked to cardiac potassium and beta-adrenergic channels.

Independently described in 1963 by Cesarino Romano, Italian Paediatrician, and in 1964 by Irish paediatrician Owen Conor Ward. Both reported an autosomal dominant long-term QT syndrome, later known as Romano-Ward syndrome.

1964 – Ward published in the Journal of the Irish Medical Association. He detailed the case of a 6 year old girl suffering from recurrent syncope whenever she was distressed or exerted herself, from the age of 16 months. Her GP sent her for a cardiology review; she was admitted to hospital and her symptoms recreated by running her around the ward where she collapsed, pulseless and unconscious.

Her ECG changes included marked QT prolongation at baseline and ‘bizarre’ ventricular extrasystoles degenerating into ventricular fibrillation of an ‘abnormal configuration’ [we now know this to be Torsades de pointes, first defined by François Dessertenne in 1966]. Shortening the QT with digoxin, beta blockers and carbamazepine did not prevent her attacks. Regrettably, at the age of 14, she had a further single attack which proved fatal.

Her younger brother suffered similar attacks from the age of 15 months, associated with emotional distress. He was treated with thioridizine (Melleril) in association with a beta-blocker. He died in an attack a few months before the publication of the first paper identifying QT prolongation as an adverse effect of thioridizine.

The children’s mother, who was completely symptom free, had marked prolongation of her QT interval. Their father’s ECG was normal. These findings were taken to indicate that the condition had been inherited as a dominant trait.

Autopsy examination revealed no pathological change in the heart muscle or in the conducting system, and no vascular structural abnormality.


Controversies

Not always a bed of roses’ – Ward speaking on his time working in Ireland where he was involved in several conflicts with Catholic Leaders. This was mainly during his work supporting Irish Women’s access to termination of pregnancy in cases of life-threatening malformation. His UCD Professorship became under threat when Archbishop Ryan discovered that Ward had been looking into the possibility of amniocentesis for a pregnant mother whose previous child had been born with gargoylism.


Major Publications

References

Biography

Eponymous terms


Cite this article as: Mike Cadogan, "Owen C. Ward," In: LITFL - Life in the FastLane, Accessed on February 8, 2023, https://litfl.com/owen-conor-ward/.

eponym

the person behind the name

Associate Professor Curtin Medical School, Curtin University. Emergency physician MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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