Working life: Donal Buggy head of services and advocacy, Irish Cancer Society

I park up at the office, in Ballsbridge, and go for a 30-minute run around the back of the Aviva Stadium and along the Dodder, four mornings a week. 

Family life gets in the way in the evenings — I have three children, aged six to 10.


The first hour is a catch-up with staff, going through plans for the day/ week, followed by checking emails and other correspondence. 

I keep an ear to the morning news — the society has a significant role to play in giving cancer patients a voice, so we are always keen to react to relevant news stories and research findings. 

The interpretation of research is important — there are advances in treatment all the time, but it’s a slow process. It needs to be put in context, so that expectations are realistic.


A variety of team meetings takes place, from developing strategies and policies, around patient services, to working with the cancer-prevention team. 

At the moment, we’re very focused on the upcoming introduction of plain packaging for cigarette packs. There’s good evidence that it’s worked elsewhere and we want to be in a position to support it.


Time for external meetings, which range from hosting malnutrition workshops, where experts talk to us about tackling malnutrition in cancer patients, to skin cancer-prevention planning. 

The latter involves working with GPs and policymakers. 

We’ve worked with GAA Cul Camps, as part of our SunSmart campaign, educating coaches on improving kids’ awareness of the dangers of sun exposure.


Time for lunch and a walk in the fresh air.


We have an afternoon event in UCD, looking at Irish patient access to clinical trials. We are engaging with patients to see how that access can be improved. We also work with about 60 cancer support groups around the county, and we fund counselling and group support services for some of them.


I’m working on bringing a world cancer conference to Dublin, next October, involving psycho-oncology experts. 

I also catch up on emails and phonecalls and prioritise what needs to be addressed the following day.


I head home. Evenings tend to be taken up with training u-10 hurlers and footballers at the local GAA club.

  • Donal Buggy is head of services and advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society


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