In the first of our new series profiling Ireland’s research leaders, Ann O’Dea spoke to expert neurologist Prof Orla Hardiman about the challenges of her research and her desire to give hope to people with motor neurone disease.

Prof Orla Hardiman is one of Ireland’s foremost neurologists and a leading expert in motor neurone disease (MND). Among her many roles, she is head of neurology at Trinity College Dublin, the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) clinical lead for neurology and a researcher at the Science Foundation Ireland research centres FutureNeuro and Adapt.

However, the most important of her working roles is that of clinician. She continues to see patients two days a week. For Hardiman, clinical work is at the heart of everything she does. “I would never give that up,” she says.

“The clinic is a place where people can come, where we can help make life a bit easier, where we can improve the experience I hope, where we can walk the journey with people and where we can give hope, because there is hope for people with MND as well.”

From an early age, Hardiman knew she wanted to work in medicine. She has always been curious about the human condition. “The part of medicine I like is the part where we can be curious,” she says. “[About] what makes us who we are and what we do.”

Hardiman comes from a creative family and through her work has found ways to channel that curious, creative part of her DNA into “something that makes a difference for people”.


Words by Rebecca Graham