Improved health, hope and happiness are the priceless gifts which Dr Madeleine Rooney has brought to her patients and their families in her role as Northern Ireland’s first and only paediatric rheumatologist.
Also a renowned medical researcher in her field, our 2014 Woman of the Year in Health, sponsored by Linwoods, has not only transformed the lives of her young patients with her skills, but with her dedication and compassion to finding new treatments, too.
Dr Rooney, who is also a senior lecturer at Queen’s University, was nominated for our award by her grateful patients, parents, Arthritis Care Northern Ireland and the board of governors of Belfast Hospital School.
She was delighted to be singled out for the honour and immediately dedicated it to her team.
She said: “I was absolutely stunned and genuinely humbled as there were so many lovely candidates.
“I have a fantastic team and only for them I wouldn’t be standing here as it is a very demanding job. There are a lot of children with arthritis and muscular diseases and there is a huge need.
“I’m especially thrilled because it was the children and parents and Arthritis Care who felt myself and my team were worthy of being nominated for the award.”
Dr Rooney (58), who is originally from Newcastle, Co Down, started her career as a consultant and researcher in paediatric rheumatology in Northwick Park Hospital in 1991, moving after four years to carry on both those roles in the renowned Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.
In 1999 she returned to Northern Ireland and established the local regional service in paediatric rheumatology.
Since then, with the help of a dedicated multidisciplinary team, she has developed a service with exemplary standards of care for children with rheumatic diseases.
She is an international leader in paediatric musculoskeletal ultrasound in childhood arthritis and has established ultrasound as part of the normal clinical service.
She is renowned for her research, particularly in discovering the predictors of outcome in childhood arthritis.
She was chief investigator on the first multicentre double blind controlled study of the prevention and treatment of steroid-induced osteopaenia in children with rheumatic diseases.
The results of this study are due this year and will provide the first evidence-base for the management of bone health in these children.
She said: “I am passionate about research as I think children do very badly when it comes to accessing new treatment.
“Every child should have access to clinical trials and clinical research should be embedded in the NHS so that if a family wishes their child to enter it they can. It’s the only way their health will improve.
“You can’t take what works for adults and assume it will work for children.
“Our latest research, which was conducted UK-wide but based in Belfast, should show us this year the impact of steroids on children’s bone health. There have been lots of studies on adults, but none on children.”
‘I think children do very badly when it comes to accessing new treatment. You can’t take what works for adults and |assume it will work for children’