IrishCentral's sister publication Irish America celebrated its second annual Healthcare and Life Sciences 50 Awards Reception, co-hosted with ICON plc, on October 7 in Manhattan. The Healthcare and Life Sciences 50 aims to recognize the best and brightest professionals in the medical industry and highlight the work they are doing to improve the lives of their communities and our healthcare industry.

“We gather on an auspicious occasion,” Irish America founding publisher Niall O’Dowd said, opening the evening, and referring to the fact that this is the second year in a row an Irish person has won the Nobel Prize in Medicine – Dr. William Campbell from Drew University, who won for helping to invent the drug that cures river blindness saving millions of lives in the process.

“You stand on magnificent shoulders your parents and family how in may cases sacrificed so you could achieve such great accomplishments. I’m sure they are with you tonight, and proud of the fantastic careers you have all carved out,” he said. “Last year we had Nobel laureate Dr. James Watson, the man who discovered DNA. Perhaps we have a future Nobel winner somewhere here tonight.”

Introducing the honorees to a crowded reception hall, Irish America co-founder and editor-in-chief Patricia Harty drew special attention the some of the numerous medical advancements made by the Irish and Irish Americans in the room, including John Nolan’s work on Alzheimer’s, and Barbara Murphy, who currently serves as one of only three women to be appointed chair of medicine at a top medical school. She also paid tribute to the late Garrett O’Connor, whose life was devoted to addiction treatment and one of the most eminent psychiatrists working in the U.S.

Speaking more generally, Steve Cutler, chief operating officer of ICON, noted that “Looking around the room tonight, I know that Irish Americans will continue to be a major driving force in effecting positive change within the healthcare and health sciences industry.”

Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ Health System), delivered the keynote remarks during the reception. Dowling, who was born into extreme poverty in Co. Limerick and immigrated to the Bronx at the age of 17, knows something of the struggle in search of opportunity, as he put it. His speech thread together themes of privilege, medical and moral obligation to immigrants, and what he called the desire “to defeat the dictum that it cannot be done,” referring to an historical culture of imagination and progress among the Irish in medical fields.

“We’re all motivated by a desire to innovate, to pioneer discovery, to answer those questions that others find hard to answer. We’re motivated to empower the imagination, to stretch peoples’ thought process, to think about what’s possible,” he said.

“We as a group, you as a group, we like to break with tradition, we like to break the status quo. We like to take risks, we like to lead, not just follow. Those are extraordinary characteristics. Those are the characteristics that move things forward, that get people thinking about what can be done, not about what cannot be done.”

Dowling also stressed maintaining perspective on the accomplishments of the honorees.

“We are a very, very privileged group indeed, and we should not forget about it,” he said. “Especially in the context of what’s going on across the world these days. Just for a moment think about those people who came here – family members from decades or centuries ago – who came here facing enormous hardship and discrimination, who came to this country searching for opportunity. It’s an extraordinary story.

“History repeats itself. And we as Irish people have a special perspective with regard to that issue, and, I believe, as people who are currently quite fortunate, to have an obligation to bring some element of sanity, humanism, civility, and understanding into the debates that are currently going on politically in this country and abroad regarding people who want to move in search of opportunity.

“We should be concerned, I believe, because it’s all part of health. It’s all part of the effort to promote wellness, to try to promote opportunity for people, and help people have a better life. That’s our profession.”

The full transcript of Dowling’s remarks can be found here.

For more on Michael Dowling, read the Irish America December / January 2014 cover story.

“There’s hardly a good Irish cause for which you won’t find Michael’s name on the list of people who donated to it or spend their time working for the people,” Niall O’Dowd said of Dowling. “He is an exemplar of an immigrant who came here at 17 with nothing the but change in his pockets and is doing great things for Irish America. I think he’s an American original, an Irish original, and we’re delighted to have him as our keynote speaker.

Following Dowling’s address, Harty and O’Dowd presented him with the House of Waterford Crystal Colleen Vase Keynote Speaker Award.

Among the 2015 honorees recognized at the event were:

Barbara Murphy, chief of the Division of Nephrology at Mount Sinai Hospital; Murphy is one of the few female division chiefs in the U.S. and is one of only three women to be appointed chair of medicine at a top medical school.

Professor John Nolan, Director & Principal Investigator of the Macular Pigment Research Group at Waterford Institute of Technology, is also being honored for his extensive breakthrough research into the cause of Age Related Macular Degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in the world today. Nolan is now working on a study that is hoped will halt the onset of Alzheimer's and improve cognitive function in those who have the disease.

BJ Casey, Ph.D., Sackler Professor of Developmental Psychobiology and director of the Sackler Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College, is recognized for being a world leader in human neuroimaging and its use in typical and atypical development.

The 2015 Irish America Healthcare & Life Sciences 50 honorees also include Dr. Peter F. Buckley, dean of the Medical College of Georgia; Daniel O’Day, chief operating officer of the Pharmaceuticals Division at Roche; Terry McGuire, co-founder and general partner of Polaris Partners; Patrick Johnston, president and vice chancellor of Queens University Belfast; Susan Mahony, senior vice president at Eli Lilly and Company and president of Lilly Oncology; Ruth Riddick, founder of Sobriety Together and a pioneer in addiction treatment; and Nobel laureate Dr. James Watson, who discovered the double helix structure of DNA.

The honorees are featured in the August / September issue of Irish America.

Also in attendance were representatives of ICON, including general counsel, executive vice president and company secretary Diarmaid Cunningham, chief medical officer Brendan Buckley, and Niamh Murphy; vice president for major gifts of the American Ireland Fund Kyle; and Deputy Consul General Anna McGillicuddy.

The event was sponsored by Northwell Health System (formerly North Shore-LIJ), Mutual of America, The American Ireland Fund, the Department of Foreign Affairs, House of Waterford Crystal, Coca-Cola Company, Tourism Ireland, the UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School,, and CIE Tours International.

For complete photos of the event, click here.