Some 228 University College Dublin (UCD) medicine students graduated on Friday during a virtual ceremony due to the coronavirus restrictions.
In 17 days time many of the new graduates will begin medical internships on the frontline of the fight against Covid-19 in Irish hospitals.
As part of an expanded recruitment drive the Health Service Executive (HSE) is offering 1,000 medical intern places instead of the usual 700 spots, Minister for Health Simon Harris told the new graduates in a recorded message.
“This is a difficult and tough time for our country, this is a difficult and tough time for the world,” he said.
“You will look back at this time with pride and you will quietly say to yourself that you made yourself available to provide care when it was most needed to the Irish people,” Mr Harris said.
The graduation of all universities’ final year medicine students was brought forward to allow the newly qualified medics begin work in hospitals in May rather than July. The 228 new UCD graduates comprise 22 different nationalities.
Mr Harris said he understood many international students graduating “may face difficulties in taking up positions here as interns” due to tightening travel arrangements.
“I want to assure you that our health service, Department of Foreign Affairs, and Department of Business will do everything it possibly can to help you with any difficulties you may discover,” he said.
The State's chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, who himself graduated from UCD 29 years ago, also addressed the class of 2020 in a video recording.
Dr Holohan, who is leading the State’s response to the pandemic, said the impact of the virus “should serve as a reminder to all of us of the importance of humility in the profession”.
“There is a limitation to what we can do and what we can achieve”, which often depended on “all of the efforts of society”, he said.
“We as healthcare professionals are one part of a system, and that sometimes medicine, while it has given us huge advances, can still find it difficult to come up with answers,” Dr Holohan said.
UCD president Prof Andrew Deeks said he was "greatly heartened" by the response of the university community during the pandemic.
“In these most testing of circumstances we truly show what we are made of, individually and collectively,” Prof Deeks told the graduates.