Why did you decide to compete for the Peter Dervan Memorial Medal in 2016?
My main reason for committing to undertake the Peter Dervan Memorial Medal was that I really enjoyed the content of both modules affiliated with the award (Oncology/Immunopathology and Haematology/Immunosuppression). I had always had an interest in cancer pathology, however it was during these modules that I first considered pursuing a career in these fields. When I first heard of the Peter Dervan Medal, I knew it was something that I was interested in trying as it was a great opportunity to explore these areas in more detail.
How did you decide on a topic for the viva voce?
The topic we were given was both interesting and challenging. We were asked to prepare a presentation on how genotyping will change the future of cancer pathology. Since this is such a rapidly-evolving area, I decided to focus my research on two areas of particular interest to me – colorectal and breast cancer. These areas have seen massive advances in the use of personalised medicine in recent years, and so I believed they fitted the topic well and made for an interesting viva.
The viva voce can be a daunting experience. How did it go, were there any surprises on the day?
Like the majority of students eligible for the Peter Dervan Memorial Medal, this was the first viva voce I had ever taken part in, so understandably I was quite nervous. Having to present to five experts in the field, it goes without saying, this is not like any other examination I had ever done in medical school. Having said this, I was happy enough with how my presentation went. Following the presentation I was asked questions on various aspects of cancer pathology. As regards surprises, I was asked some difficult questions that I don’t think I answered very confidently! But it is impossible to be totally prepared since the topic is so broad.
Has being awarded the medal impacted on your medicine journey in the year that has followed?
From an examination point of view, the experience of doing this viva voce has been hugely beneficial. Although this was my first viva, I have done many in the last year as part of my clinical training and this experience was definitely an advantage. More importantly, this experience has solidified my interest in the area of medical oncology and I am now more determined to pursue a career in this field. I am doing an elective placement in oncology in the coming months and I am very much looking forward to seeing how these advances in cancer treatment are benefiting real patients. For all these reasons, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Amanda McCann, the Dervan family, and the UCD School of Medicine.
Do you have any advice for students considering putting themselves forward for the medal this year?
Firstly, I would encourage all students to put themselves forward for this prestigious medal if they have the opportunity to do so. While I am aware that studying for other exams may be your priority, just taking part in such a competitive process will definitely stand to you in the future. While it is a daunting process, my advice would be to stay calm, be confident in your knowledge, and try to enjoy the experience!