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IN tribute to John Daniel Collins (VR, June 30, 2012, vol 170, p 679), Michael Doherty writes: Born in 1938, John Daniel Collins, Professor Emeritus of Farm Animal Clinical Studies at University College Dublin (UCD), was a proud native of Waterford city, where his family was involved in the cattle trade and meat business. He entered UCD in 1956 and graduated MVB MRCVS in July 1961. After a brief period in practice in County Down, he returned to work in UCD where he graduated Master of Veterinary Medicine in 1966 and PhD in 1979. Between 1966 and 1968, he studied as a W.K. Kellogg Research Fellow at the University of California, Davis, graduating with a Masters of Science in Comparative Pathology. He held academic positions at UCD from 1961 until his retirement in 2004.
A prolific research worker, Dan's first peer-reviewed publication appeared in the Irish Veterinary Journal in 1965, and described a clinical case of tuberculosis in a domestic terrier that had been referred to the veterinary college clinic with respiratory distress. The connection with tuberculosis continued throughout Dan's career, as he made an immense contribution to the understanding of bovine tuberculosis both nationally and internationally. He was instrumental in establishing, and was the first director of, the Veterinary Epidemiology and Tuberculosis Investigation Unit (now the Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis) based in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UCD, with a mandate to provide scientific advice and risk analysis to support the Irish national bovine tuberculosis eradication policy.
Dan's expertise extended beyond the area of tuberculosis. He was a champion of safe food and played a major role in the establishment of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, serving on its management board for many years. His knowledge and skills were recognised internationally and he chaired the Panel on Biological Hazards of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) between 2003 and 2011. At the first meeting of the panel, when Dan was elected chair, he set the tone and the spirit by announcing: ‘We are here to help and to serve the trust placed in us by the citizens of Europe.’ Through this work, Dan made a significant contribution to EFSA's risk communications activities, helping to explain complex issues such as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, animal cloning and food chain contaminants. He advised successive Ministers in the Irish Department of Agriculture on many aspects of food safety and animal health.
Dan was a founding member of the European College of Veterinary Public Health (ECVPH) and an honorary life member, as well as a past-president of the Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine. The ECVPH brought together the disciplines of food safety and veterinary public health, and in the college's early days he played a pivotal role in ensuring that population medicine was integrated into the ECVPH as a subspecialty.
A meticulous academic administrator, Dan often spent weekends in preparation for lengthy Monday executive meetings of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at UCD. His many graduate students will also testify to his exceptional proof reading skills in the days before ‘track changes’ when manuscripts would be returned festooned with yellow stickies and the legendary red ink. Dan was very popular with students and was always willing to share his great knowledge and wisdom. He was held in high esteem by his colleagues and peers and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by the Irish Veterinary Association in October 1996. Exceptionally proud of his profession, when introduced by television host Gay Byrne during an appearance on the Late Late Show as ‘Professor Collins involved in the veterinary business’, he immediately responded with the riposte, ‘It's the veterinary profession, Mr Byrne!’
Dan was a modest, honest, warm-hearted man; he was generous of his time and extremely supportive of colleagues and friends during periods of difficulty. His relentless optimism in the face of adversity always evoked the response, ‘Isn't it great to have the problem?’ A keen rugby player in his youth and an avid lifelong supporter of his native Munster, he was always eager to showcase Irish rugby with local and overseas visitors. He was extremely loyal to his colleagues, friends and his profession, and his ability to provide unique insights to complex problems as well as his friendship will be missed. He is survived by his wife Phil, brother Eddie, sons John, David, Kevin, Daniel and eight grandchildren.
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