Limerick’s starring role in Gray’s Anatomy

Dara Walsh and Prof John Calvin Coffey with medical students Olwyn Conlon, Ross Book and Sophie Sabherwal in the UHL Clinical Research Centre.

A PIONEERING surgeon and medical illustrator based at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) are among the contributors to the first edition of Gray’s Surgical Anatomy.

Prof John Calvin Coffey made global headlines in 2017 when he led a team of researchers in reclassifying part of the human digestive system known as the mesentery as a new organ.


Prof Coffey is Foundation Chair of Surgery at the UL Graduate Entry Medical School and Consultant Colorectal Surgeon with UL Hospitals Group.

His group’s work has led to updates in some of the world’s most prestigious medical textbooks, including Gray’s Anatomy.

The 2019 edition of the surgical reference book includes a contribution on the Peritoneum, Mesentery and Peritoneal Cavity.

Listed with Prof Coffey as a contributor is Dara Walsh, a medical illustrator from the University of Limerick who is also based at UHL.

Mr Walsh’s work has featured in such prestigious journals as The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology and now Gray’s Surgical Anatomy.

The impact of Prof Coffey’s research is ground-breaking.

He said that identifying the mesentery as an organ clarifies what we are as humans and how we are made up. It re-orientates human biology in general, and clinical practice in particular.

“Dara Walsh’s illustrations have made a once complex field easy to understand and study for all,” Prof Coffey added.

Better understanding of the mesentery and its functions has already led to improvements in surgery with fewer complications, speedier recovery for patients and reduced costs to healthcare providers.

The work of Prof Coffey and his team has been recently recognised at UCC’s Annual Alumni Achievement Awards.