NUIG medical students graduate early and online to join pandemic fight

‘You are now the heroes of the world. Learn well, protect yourselves and protect others.’

The graduation of 190 medical students from NUIG has been fast-tracked to ensure more doctors are available to work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

NUI Galway's 2020 graduation event, which was held online for the first time, took place on Monday morning through a Facebook live event. The students' final year exams had previously been brought forward to enable them to enter the healthcare workforce without delay.

Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organisation's health emergencies programme, and a graduate of NUIG, called on students in a recorded message to bring "humanity, compassion and kindness" to their work as they embark on their careers during extraordinary and challenging times.

“I’m sure you have many fears, it would be unusual if you weren’t afraid, fear keeps you safe,” Dr Ryan told the 2020 graduates. “But you have to move forward. You have to take the precautions to keep yourself safe, you have to keep your colleagues safe and you have to keep your patients safe. By doing just that you’ll save lives.”


“It is a time for trepidation, you will have moments of complete exhaustion,” said Dr Ryan. “But it’s the moments when you’re under pressure and exhausted that you truly find yourself and find the strength to keep going.

“You are now the heroes of the world. Learn well, protect yourselves and protect others.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris also paid tribute to the medical graduates in a recorded message and called on the young doctors to "come work with us as we fight to save lives in our country and to keep our people safe".

“I’m so delighted that your graduation ceremony has been fast tracked because we really need everybody on the front line as we fight and battle the global pandemic that is Covid-19,” said Mr Harris.

“Those of you graduating today will come help us; help us save lives, help us keep our people well, help us in our national efforts to see off the coronavirus.”

‘Profound moment’

Addressing the students through the Facebook live feed, NUIG president Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh congratulated the “extraordinary” graduates for rising to the challenge at this “particularly profound moment”.

Prof Ó hÓgartaigh called on the young doctors to show openness and flexibility in their work as they face the many difficult challenges that “undoubtedly” lie ahead.

“I think you’ve been remarkable in your capacity to face change and to embrace it,” he said. “It will be a challenge but also a learning experience that will be like no other in this generation.

“You’ve learned how to cope, how to manage, how to face difficult situations, how to work with people, and live in challenging times. And when you face challenges ahead, rely on that education; fall back on those routines, think of the experience you’ve gained so far.

Young, newly qualified doctors will have a “profound and remarkable role” to play during this crisis, said Prof Ó hÓgartaigh, adding that medical professionals must use their skills to protect the “sustainability” of human lives on this planet.

Monday's online graduation marked the achievements of medical students from across Ireland and Europe as well as students from Malaysia, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Brunei, Singapore, USA, China, South Korea, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Iraq, Brazil, Ecuador and Vietnam.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast