PETER BARRY 1948-2016

David Spalton

Posted: Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Peter’s sudden and tragic death was a shock for all of us. He was a particularly good friend to me and to many of you who are reading this.

Peter co-organised the European Intraocular Implant Club meeting in Dublin, Ireland in 1990. It was at this meeting that the decision was taken to change the name of the society to the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons, and from that time Peter served as a board member, treasurer, then as president, and finally
as a director.

Throughout all these years he was a steady guiding hand, the work of the society never far from his heart, and the formative role he had in the success of the ESCRS cannot be overstated. In my opinion this success was due to two strong personality attributes – the first being a superb ability to chair a committee meeting, and the second being a dogged determination to see something through to the end once he had started on it, strongly aided by some Irish charm and a puckish sense of humour.

Time and time again I would watch in admiration as, during a committee meeting, after a sometimes lengthy and rather stringent discussion, he would summarise the problem and come up with the common-sense solution that we had all missed, which we could all agree on, and then we would move on to the next item on the agenda.

Through his friendship with Ulf Stenevi and Mats Lundström, he led the way in developing the society’s studies in the prevention of postoperative endophthalmitis and benchmarking surgical outcomes with the
EUREQUO database.

His greatest memorial will be the endophthalmitis study which eventually turned out to be the biggest antibiotic study ever undertaken. He conceived the project, raised the finance and put together a dedicated and expert team, and then saw the project through the trials and tribulations of regulation, bureaucracy and recruitment until its
eventual success.

As we all know now, the intracameral injection of cefuroxime at the end of surgery reduces the incidence of infection five-fold. The study has become the standard of care in many countries and we, as surgeons, and more importantly our patients have good reason to be grateful to him. Few of us will ever leave such a legacy.

Peter was educated at Gonzaga College in Dublin. At one time he contemplated a career in the Church and few of us knew he retained a strong Christian faith throughout his life. However, he went into medicine instead, graduating from University College Dublin in 1974, where he won the Medical Society Gold Medal and also the Gibson Cup, the Irish Medical Schools Debating Cup (perhaps an early sign of later achievements).

He was a resident at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London from 1976 to 1979, followed by a retina fellowship at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA. After this he returned to a consultant appointment at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.

His funeral took place on the most perfect Irish summer day at the church opposite St Vincent’s Hospital, with a congregation packed to standing room only with his family, his friends and colleagues, golfing chums, and I suspect a large number of grateful patients too. Lisa, his 20-year-old daughter, with great courage and fortitude, gave a eulogy none of those present will ever forget. It was an incredibly sad end to a life so well lived and we all extend our sympathy to his wife Carmel, and his children David, Stephen, Simon and Lisa.


Prof David Spalton is President of the ESCRS


To make a lasting commemoration to Peter’s enormous contribution to the society, the ESCRS intends to inaugurate the Peter Barry ESCRS Travel Fellowship for a trainee
to spend a year abroad in a centre of excellence