Professor Donald G. Weir, a dedicated Trinity academic, caring clinician, a scientist of international renown, has been honoured as a Benefactor through the Centuries. Since the mid-60’s, Professor Weir has given quietly and generously to Trinity and St James’s Hospital gifts totalling €1.5 million. His name has been inscribed on the roll of honour at the grand entrance to the Dining Hall.
Speaking at the event to mark Professor Weir’s contribution, Professor Paul Browne, Head of School of Medicine said, “There is a story behind each name among Trinity’s Benefactors through the Centuries, and there is a remarkable story of achievement behind your name. And it is also a story of somebody who quietly over the years has been making a financial contribution to Trinity and to St James’s Hospital. The Benefactors roll of honour is a permanent tribute to you not only as a distinguished Trinity academic but as a philanthropist who is part of a tradition of giving that stretches back over 400 years and reaches far into the future.”
Donald George Weir qualified in medicine at Trinity College Dublin in 1958. Awarded an MD in 1962, he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland in 1968. He continued his postgraduate training in Edinburgh at the Western General Hospital. It was at this time that he developed his interest in gastroenterology and was appointed consultant gastroenterologist to the federated Dublin Voluntary Hospitals at Sir Patrick Dun’s in 1967.
On return to Ireland Professor Weir commenced a life-long research partnership with John Scott, a biochemist in Trinity. The central focus of their research related to the metabolism of vitamin B12 and folic acid in disease states. The importance of their work in the prevention of neural tube defects in pregnancy is immense. Their studies demonstrated that 75% of all neural tube defects could be prevented by taking folic acid tablet and by food fortification. This finding was adopted as a preventative measure in the USA in 1998 and thereafter internationally.
In parallel with folic acid research, Donald continued to promote research in many other areas and in particular in coeliac disease. Professor Weir gained an international reputation as a clinical gastroenterologist. He was the first to introduce flexible endoscopy in Ireland, and it is now well accepted that endoscopy revolutionised the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders.
He was appointed Regius Professor of Physic at Trinity, i.e. Professor of Medicine, in 1977 and became Head of the Department of Clinical Medicine in 1982. For some 20 years, he held these positions with great distinction being an exceptional leader in academic medicine. In 1982 he had located all of his activities to the St James’s Hospital campus continuing his close collaboration with Professor John Scott. The move to St James’s enabled the establishment of a dedicated suite of research laboratories named after Sir Patrick Dun, which evolved into a premier centre of high quality translational research in the country.
Professor Weir played the central role in the development of the medical research facilities in Trinity. He has had an illustrious career as educator, clinician, scientist, mentor and is a role model admired by the colleagues, students, researchers in Trinity, Ireland and around the world. Over the years Professor Weir has been an active volunteer who served on a number of boards and has been involved in a variety of causes.