Making doctors do the rounds

 

Meet the first medical graduates of University of Limerick’s medical school. Are they ready for a life of medicine?

AS IRELAND’S established medical schools lined up to offer the country’s first graduate entry medical programme in 2007, the University of Limerick (UL) swooped in to steal the crown.

In a coup ably orchestrated by the university’s Prof Paul Finucane, the Shannon-side redbrick became both the first alternative, non-CAO route for getting into medicine and the first medical school to be founded since the establishment of the State. Also the first to use problem-based learning techniques to train doctors. So just who are the school’s first graduates?

We spoke to some of them at their recent graduation.

DR BRIAN KING

I was a maths and chemistry teacher at Taylor’s Hill girls’ school in Galway.

I had done a degree in biochemistry at NUIG and the HDip, but medicine was always in the back of my head. When the Gamsat exams came up, I thought I might as well give it a go. Then the offer came and I haven’t looked back.

It was tough to go from being a teacher to being a student again but I knew from the very early days of the course that I made the right decision. I was 26 going back, I’m 30 now.

I feel being a few years older means our experiences in life might help rather than someone who started medicine at 17. I’m interested in going into paediatrics or general practice.

The whole 100-hour work week isn’t as prevalent and internships are more structured now and that’s a great plus for junior doctors starting off.

The big thing the Medical Council has done in the past year on continuous professional development is good too so there’s a structure in place for continually bettering yourself.

Today is as proud a day for UL as it is for us. I hope we do them credit in the coming years.

DR EIMER O’MALLEY

I filled out my CAO form when I was just 16 and I don’t think I really had the maturity or was aware of my aptitude for medicine. I studied analytical science at DCU to give me a good grounding and then kept my eye on the graduate programme.

I’m really glad I did it that way because I knew how to study before starting medicine. I was 21 starting, I’m 25 now.

It’s a very intense four years – the first two years are at UL where you acquire all the knowledge and clinical skills and then the second two years are concentrated on general practice and the wards. So there’s an awful lot to pack in.

At the end of it, you have attained the same amount of knowledge as those doing a five-year programme so it’s a lot of work.

We used problem-based learning in small groups where we worked through real life problems to provoke our learning.

At the moment I’m leaning towards obstetrics and gynaecology. Limerick is a great city; we had a great time socially and were very welcome in the hospitals in the midwest.

DR ANNE GRACE

I studied French and English at University College Cork. I thought about doing medicine in secondary school but I remember reading the prospectus for Arts and thinking it sounded better.

Then I started working and did this horrible admin job and thought whatever job I do, I need to enjoy it. I thought I’d apply and then I was there sitting in the interview thinking, I really want to do this.

I did science subjects for my Leaving but it was nearly five years later and I’d completely forgotten it all.

It was hard at the start, but I think that it was only hard because of my own perception . . . I thought everyone who had done science would know everything but if you’ve done physics there’s not much overlap between that and anatomy.

By the time you get to the stage we’re at now, you’d be hard-pressed to say who did what beforehand. Now we’re on a level playing field.

Id like to get into general practice. Lots of people say to me, I didn’t know

you could do [medicine] if you did Arts. I want as many people as possible to know that you can.

DR MICHAEL O’CALLAGHAN

Medicine was something I always thought about doing but I decided to go for engineering in NUIG. I did a master’s in computers and worked for Intel before going travelling.

I heard about the Gamsat test and did it and found out I got a place – I was 23 when I started. It was strange to be back and not have money again, but when it’s something you really like, you don’t find it as hard.

I think when you’re dealing with patients, having a bit of life experience is definitely beneficial – you are more stable in yourself, more comfortable around people and have a better understanding of where they are coming from.

I’m kind of steering towards general practice now if they’ll have me.

The course is expensive, I think the Government pays €13,000 a year and we pay €12,000. Most people made it through with the help of family, friends and credit unions. We’re in a position now where we have to make some serious money to pay back some pretty hefty loans.

DR PAMELA DAVOREN

I wanted to do medicine from the time I was in secondary school. I didn’t get it at the time so I did a bachelor of science at NUIG. I did research for a number of years and then a one-year research master’s at the National Breast Cancer Research Unit in Galway. I was keeping an eye on developments on the graduate-entry programme because all throughout I really wanted to do medicine.

It was a very intensive four years. It wasn’t just a case of sitting in a large lecture hall and being told all the information, it was very much this is the topic you need to cover, you do the work and decide what you need to get out of the week.

I’d really like to pursue a career in general practice.

Now that working hours are in line with the European directive in the majority of hospitals, it’s a good thing for doctors not to have to work ridiculous hours and for patients who don’t have to be treated by them.

It’s yet to unfold how we will be similar or different . As a group we are probably quite focused on where we want to go in our careers and have more of an idea of what we see ourselves doing. We’ll be compared to our counterparts, we’ll let others decide.