‘I was diagnosed with cancer during my Junior Cert year’
My Leaving: Dr Eamon Faller
Dr Eamon Faller, who was diagnosed with childhood cancer in his Junior Cert year. “Exams are just exams and in times where something difficult is going on, the priority should be your physical and mental health,” he says.
What is your most vivid Leaving Cert memory?
The French oral was the first part of my Leaving Cert and I remember being so very nervous the night before. And the night before biology, I was convinced I knew nothing. As it turned out, I did well in both.
Who was your most influential teacher and why?
Donal Quilty was my Junior Cert English teacher. It wasn’t a subject where I’d hoped for an A1, but he was charismatic and inspiring, and he gave me a love of poetry and literature that has stayed with me to this day.
What was your most difficult subject?
Irish. I enjoyed it but felt that, between poetry, composition, oral and aural, there was a lot in one course.
And your favourite?
Applied maths. I was a bit of a maths nerd which helped with physics too. Somewhat unfairly, a love of art, English or music can’t easily be applied to other subjects.
How many points did you get in your Leaving Cert?
580. Just enough to get medicine.
Why did you choose medicine?
When I was in third year of secondary school, I was diagnosed with cancer. I was in and out of hospital and had a lot of contact with doctors.
I appreciated what people had done for me and thought it would be a good thing to try. Having said that, I may have chosen medicine regardless but that contributed at least.
What did you learn from the experience of being sick during exams?
Exams are just exams and in times where something difficult is going on, the priority should be your physical and mental health. I only did six subjects that year as I felt more would create unnecessary pressure, and I had no problem catching up on bits I had missed.
What would you change about the Leaving Cert?
The all-or-nothing, intensive nature of the exam weeks. Some form of continuous assessment would be helpful.
Is there a subject you would add to the curriculum?
PE should be a Leaving Cert subject. From a medical point of view it could help curb obesity and encourage a healthy lifestyle, and it would reward students with sporting commitments.
What advice would you give to your Leaving Cert self?
Keep up a European language and do an Erasmus year to that country in college. A dismal number of English-speaking people are bilingual but it’s a wonderful skill. Ten years on, I’m trying to relearn French, but it’s proving challenging.
*Dr Eamon Faller, 27, is currently working with Medicines Sans Frontiers in Kenya. He sat his Leaving Cert at “The Bish” , St Joseph’s in Galway.