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Obituary: In Memoriam: Professor John Daniel Collins
Professor John Daniel Collins, member of the EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) and chair from 2003-2011, passed away on 25 April 2012. For all current and past members of the BIOHAZ Panel, it has been a real honour to work under his chairmanship. At the first meeting, when Dan was elected as chair, he set the tone and the spirit for the Panel “We are here to help and to serve the trust placed in us by the citizens of Europe”. He chaired the Panel with a good sense of humour yet asking helpful questions to encourage the experts to bring opinions to their conclusions and recommendations, and always praising the Panel at the end. His contribution to all the Scientific Opinions of the BIOHAZ Panel, his remarkable energy in preparing meetings, his general knowledge over a wide area, and his diplomatic skills to come to a consensus in complicated dossiers despite sometimes divergent scientific positions will remain with all of us indefinitely. Gently, yet decisively, Dan led the Panel to become a highly productive group in which collegial interaction and respect were, and remain, key words. Always wanting to ensure that the outcomes of EFSA’s scientific work were clear, understandable and useful for the Authority’s partners, stakeholders and the public at large, Dan also made a significant contribution to EFSA’s risk communications activities helping to explain complex issues such as TSEs in small ruminants or animal cloning. We will continue in this style, to honour the memories of a great scientist and good friend.
Dan was born in Waterford in the south of Ireland in 1938. His cattle-raising father fostered his interest in animal health, and he graduated as a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine from University College Dublin (UCD) in 1961. After a short period in veterinary practice, he returned to work in UCD and he spent the rest of his career there, except for two years studying at the University of California. From 1978 he was associate professor of veterinary preventative medicine. In 1989, he was appointed as the first Director of the Veterinary Epidemiology and Tuberculosis Investigation Unit, located at the university. As Director he played a major role in the developing research in bovine tuberculosis that was a disease of considerable significance in Irish cattle. He was a prime mover in relocating the UCD Veterinary Faculty to a new green field site with state of the art facilities. In addition to his service to EFSA, he was also heavily involved in the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and was a member of the Board until his death. Dan was a past president of the Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine and a founding member of the European College of Veterinary Public Health (ECVPH), which brought together food safety and veterinary public health, all with a view on how the veterinary profession could serve the European public to protect public health. Indeed, Dan played a key role in having population medicine integrated into ECVPH as a subspecialty. Also, Dan participated in academic teams evaluating and accrediting education at Veterinary Faculties in Europe, on behalf of the European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education (EAEVE). To quote a colleague from UCD “When John Collins retired, we needed two professors to replace him!”
We are grateful that we could meet again Prof. Dan Collins in Dublin last year and then, unfortunately for the last time, this spring in Copenhagen. Even under difficult circumstances, about one month before he left us forever, he had prepared as usual in every detail the meeting, and his last contribution to the EU Tuberculosis approach should remain outstanding among his memorable legacy to food safety.
Dan was admirable not only as an outstanding scientist as well as a down-to-earth veterinarian, but also as a warm-hearted, friendly and always optimistic man. It is unforgettable how he remained active and positive after the stroke that hit him and the way he recovered with remarkable courage. He was a real ‘Pater Familias’ for the whole BIOHAZ Panel, and we are sure he was the same for his family, children and grandchildren. The loving care with which his son Daniel accompanied Dan to the last meetings of the Panel that he was able to attend is a token of the strong family bonds. He affected everyone he met in a positive way. There seemed to be only one thing, apart from his family, that might have been dearer to him than his work: his fierce partisanship for the Munster rugby team and its tradition.
Dan was well known at EFSA for his friendly and cheerful demeanour and given his many roles in the BIOHAZ Panel, the Scientific Committee and numerous Working Groups as well as his active support to EFSA’s communications activities it was not unusual to see him at EFSA’s premises. The staff was very fond of him and held him in high esteem, admiring his gift of having wisdom and authority in equal measures. He was respected for his integrity and dedication to public health and it was always truly a pleasure to work with him. Dan, thank you for the many happy memories and the professional example you gave us.