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Patrick G. Johnston

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Patrick G. Johnston FRCP FRCPI FMedSci (14 September 1958 – 4 June 2017) was a Northern Irish physician and a leading expert in cancer research. He was a professor of oncology at Queen's University Belfast, where he served as vice-chancellor and president from March 1, 2014, until his death.[2][3][4]

Patrick G. Johnston
President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast
In office
1 March 2014 – 4 June 2017
Preceded by Sir Peter Gregson
Succeeded by Prof. James McElnay (acting)
Personal details
Born 14 September 1958[1]
Derry, Northern Ireland
Died 4 June 2017(2017-06-04) (aged 58)
County Donegal, Ireland
Children 4
Residence Belfast, Northern Ireland
Alma mater University College Dublin
Profession Physician
Cancer researcher
Website Vice Chancellor's Office


Early life and educationEdit

Johnston grew up in the Waterside area of Derry, Northern Ireland. His father was a teacher, as were several of his aunts and uncles. At age 14, he first thought about becoming a doctor because of an interest in chemistry and biology.[5] He attended St. Columb's College and obtained a MB BCh with distinction from University College Dublin (UCD).[6]


After qualifying from UCD, Johnston worked in the Mater and St James's hospitals in Dublin, where he specialised in oncology and hematology.[7]

In 1987, he took up a fellowship at the National Cancer Institute at Bethesda, Maryland, where he undertook doctoral studies in molecular pharmacology and was subsequently offered tenure in 1993.[8]

He began his career at Queen's in 1996, when he was appointed professor of oncology. Prior to his appointment as vice-chancellor, he was dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences. In 2007, he led the development of a new international medical school at Queen’s and the Institute of Health Sciences. Prior to this, he was the director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at the University.[citation needed]

Johnston was made chair of the Translational Research Group of the Medical Research Council (MRC) in 2012. He received the 2013 International Bob Pinedo Cancer Care Prize for his work in translating discovery science for the benefit of cancer patients.[9] He served on the Cancer Research UK (CR-UK) Science Executive/Advisory Board and co-founded Almac Diagnostics (based in Craigavon) and the Society for Translational Oncology in Durham, North Carolina.[citation needed]

He was a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (appointed 2012) and the National Cancer Institute (appointed 1987). He was made a senior investigator at the NCI in 1991. In 2012 he was awarded the Diamond Jubilee Queen’s Anniversary Prize, for his leadership at the University’s Comprehensive Cancer Centre.[6]

Johnston had a vision for Queen's as a world-class international university supporting outstanding students and staff, working in world-class facilities, conducting leading-edge education and research focused on the needs of society. This vision had been challenged by some as "marketisation", contrary to the nature of the university as a seat of culture, learning, open-mindedness and free speech. On April 20, 2015, Johnston was reported to have cancelled a conference on Understanding Charlie: New perspectives on contemporary citizenship after Charlie Hebdo, citing "security risks" and "the reputation of the university". This was criticised as censoring an academic forum on the subject of free speech.[10]

After a reconsideration of the security and academic implications, the conference proceeded.[11]

Personal lifeEdit

Johnston was married to Iseult and had four sons, Seamus, Eoghan, Niall and Ruairi, and one grandson.[1][12]

He died suddenly after a bicycle ride in June 2017 in County Donegal.[13] His funeral was held St Brigid's Parish Church in Belfast.[14]


  1. ^ a b "Professor Patrick Johnston". Queen's University Belfast. Retrieved 27 July 2017. 
  2. ^ "New vice-chancellor at QUB". Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  3. ^ "Cancer research expert Prof Patrick Johnston is new QUB president". 8 October 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  4. ^ "Meet the global cancer expert from Derry who's landed £200,000-a-year post as head of Queen's University". Belfast Telegraph. 9 October 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  5. ^ Piana, Ronald (25 July 2014). "From Ireland to America and Back, Patrick G. Johnston, MD, PhD, Thrives on Bringing Research Findings to Clinical Practice". The ASCO Post. Retrieved 27 July 2017. 
  6. ^ a b "Professor Patrick Johnston takes up QUB Presidency". Derry Journal. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  7. ^ "Cancer researcher and university administrator who contributed to Ireland's workplace smoking ban". The Irish Times. 10 June 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2017. 
  8. ^ "President and vice chancellor of Queen's University dies suddenly". The Irish Times. 4 June 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2017. 
  9. ^ "Professor Patrick G. Johnston Awarded Society for Translational Oncology's Pinedo Prize". The Oncologist. Retrieved 4 June 2017. 
  10. ^ Reidy, Padraig (21 April 2015). "Queen's University Belfast cancels Charlie Hebdo conference, citing security fears". Little Atoms. Retrieved 4 June 2017. 
  11. ^ McDonald, Henry (2017-05-01). "University to go ahead with Charlie Hebdo conference after outcry". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Ltd. Retrieved 4 June 2017. 
  12. ^ "Patrick Johnston: Queen's University VC dies suddenly". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 4 June 2017. 
  13. ^ "Obituary: Prof Patrick Johnston - a great mind whose work saved lives". Belfast Telegraph. 5 June 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2017. 
  14. ^ "Poignant tribute to Derry man Professor Patrick Johnston at Queen's". Derry Journal. 8 June 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2017.