Owen Conor Ward

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

Owen C. Ward was one of the first Paediatric cardiologists in Ireland, he fronted the development of cardiac services for children. He was well known as a worldwide educator and a dedicated advocate for sick children and their families.

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

  • Born on August 27, 1923 in County Monaghan, Ireland
  • 1946 – Graduated in Medicine from University College Dublin (UCD)
  • 1947-1954 – Worked for 7 years in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool
  • 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 – Appointed Professor of Paediatrics UCD
  • 1979 – Vice-president Royal College Physicians, Ireland
  • 1990 – Post-retirement moved to London and served in various roles for Royal College of 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 syndrome, 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, an 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.

Published in the Journal of the Irish Medical Association regarding a syndrome observed in an Irish family the main features including:

  • Prolonged, but variable QT interval in the ECG at rest
  • Attacks of ventricular flutter or fibrillation fol­lowing exertion or emotional disturbance;
  • Normal interval between heart sounds:
  • Absence of valvular or gross myocardial disease;
  • Familial incidence

He detailed the case of a 6 year old girl (BH) 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 (fig 1) and ‘bizarre’ ventricular extrasystoles degenerating into ventricular fibrillation of an ‘abnormal configuration’ (fig 2). We now know this to be torsades de pointes, first defined by François Dessertenne in 1966.

Romano-Ward syndrome prolonged QT in patient BH 1964 2
Fig 1. ECG of patient B.H. with marked prolongation of QT interval. QT=0.60. Ward 1964
Romano-Ward syndrome TdP in patient BH 1964

Fig 2. ECG of BH showing ventricular fibrillation, with rapid and ineffective ventricular beats of abnormal configuration Ward 1964

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 (MH) 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.

“In 1962 I saw a girl of eight years of age who was suffering from loss of consciousness of unexplained origin. In hospital she collapsed, pulseless, after she was taken on a run around the ward. Her brother was later affected. Their ECGs showed a prolonged QT interval and the attacks were caused by a serious form of ventricular arrhythmia.”Ward

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 abnormalities.


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



Eponymous terms



the person behind the name

MB BCh BAO from Queens University, Belfast.

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, 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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