Peter Dervan Memorial Medal for Excellence in Cancer Pathology

About The Medal

Prof Peter A Dervan (1945 - 2013), former UCD Professor of PathologyProf Peter A. Dervan was appointed Consultant Pathologist to the Mater (and initially Richmond) Hospitals, Dublin in 1978 and Professor of Pathology at University College Dublin and the Mater Hospital in 1991. During his tenure, until his retirement in 2008, he excelled as a histopathologist; leading to innovative research in areas like breast and bone cancer positively affecting the lives of 1000’s of cancer patients both in Ireland and abroad. This award recognises Professor Dervan as a leading medical researcher and outstanding, innovative teacher.

The Peter Dervan Memorial Medal for Excellence in Cancer Pathology is awarded following a competitive viva voce to the student who demonstrates excellence in cancer pathology by achieving the highest combined GPA score in core medicine modules with a significant cancer pathology content.

Honour Roll

2015/2016 Calvin Flynn Report
2014/2015 Maeve Jones-O'Connor Report
2013/2014 Joshua Belle Report

2015/2016 - Calvin Flynn

Calvin Flynn wins the 2015/2016 Peter Dervan Medal for Excellence in Cancer Pathology‌Why 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! 

2014/2015 - Maeve Jones-O'Connor

Maeve Jones-O'Connor wins the 2014/2015 Peter Dervan Medal for Excellence in Cancer Pathology

Why did you decide to compete for the Peter Dervan Memorial Medal in 2015?

I had enjoyed the content of both the subjects (Oncology Immunopathology and Haematology & Immunosuppression) while doing them, which always makes them much easier to study and delve into a bit more. Having an interest absolutely helps you to do better in the exams. I think that the medal was another opportunity for me to explore the content even more, and focus on the details and intricacies of the subject.

How did you decide on a topic for the viva voce?

This was surprisingly difficult… I have a lot of different interests in medicine, and most pathologies are uniquely interesting in their own way. I did want to go deeper into a subject I already had a good basis in though – this, coupled with a current interest in gynaecology and women’s health, led me to focus in on cervical cancer. 

The viva voce can be a daunting experience. How did it go, were there any surprises on the day?

I didn’t know what to expect at all, having never done a viva voce before; it was definitely a baptism of fire anyway! My aim beforehand was to go in feeling confident in my preparation, which I managed to do. I think that you have to back yourself in these situations - it helps you to stay calm and assured in yourself, take a breath and think, under all of that pressure. There really is nowhere to hide in a viva. I was very happy with how I performed on the day, especially since I had relatively little experience. I don’t remember being faced with anything too surprising, but the questions were challenging – that much I did expect.

Has being awarded the medal impacted on your medicine journey in the year that has followed?

For one, I have felt a great honour in being awarded with such a prestigious medal. The medal has made some wonderful opportunities available to me, even in only these few months - I am very grateful to the Dervan family, and UCD, for all of this. It also precipitated a deeper level of thought about the content we engage with in medicine. I do think that being able to explore topics of interest in detail is very beneficial for medical students, both in an educational and a personal sense. I found preparing for the viva very rewarding, and in truth, it only added to my interest in the subject. I’ve certainly been thinking more about how I can explore this interest even further in the future.

Do you have any advice for students considering putting themselves forward for the medal this year?

Firstly, I encourage everyone who can to put themselves forward – the experience will only stand to you in future. Unsurprisingly, my primary advice would be to see it as an opportunity to explore something that you truly have an interest in. It’s probably the best acid test to check the strength of that interest, and it will not be anything of a challenge to prepare for if you are truly curious about your topic. Put yourself out there and give it your full commitment – it is an award worthy of a great effort.

2013/2014 - Joshua Belle

Joshua Belle winner of the inaugural Maeve 2013/2014 Peter Dervan Medal for Excellence in Cancer Pathology

What made you decide to compete for the Peter Dervan Memorial Medal in 2014?

I am goal orientated and as I already had an interest in Urology, I felt that it presented a great opportunity to see if I could be successful having set myself a challenge in relation to Urology pathology. I particularly liked the fact that the 'leg work' done in previous years was recognised, and was a significant consideration when determining the winner of the Award.

How did you decide on a topic for the viva voce?

I spoke with various people working in Clinical Pathology and then following a discussion with Mr Kieran O’Malley, Consultant Urologist, at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, I decided to focus my attention on prostate cancer.

The viva voce can be a daunting experience, how did it play out for you?

I must admit that presenting my work to a panel comprised of so many distinguished professionals was incredibly nerve wracking. While I was obviously most concerned with the task at hand, I was also very much aware of the fact that one day, these people could be my peers and I certainly didn’t want to leave anything less than positive lasting impression on them.

Having completed the presentation, the panel set about posing questions which effectively saw me having to defend my work. It is a highly pressurised situation but I understand that it is an important part of the process as in clinical practice, differing opinions on issues such as patient management will arise and we need to be able to act with confidence and have the courage of our convictions.

Has being awarded the medal impacted on your medicine journey in the year that has followed?

I've worked very hard during my time at UCD, and I am proud of a number of achievements, but I am most honoured to have won the Peter Dervan Award. While a career in Urology had been beckoning for some time, it can be a notoriously difficult speciality to get into, particularly in North America. However, the award gave me the confidence boost I needed to press on and I have just found out that I have been offered a Urology residency in the University of Nebraska Medical Center which I will take up in June of this year.

Do you have any advice for students considering putting themselves forward for the medal this year?

If you like a challenge and can choose a topic that you have a genuine interest in, I would say go for it. Prepare well as the viva voce is highly competitive and you must be willing and able to present your work at a level which is acceptable to a panel comprised of extremely accomplished professionals.  All in all it proved to be worth the challenge and one which I know will stand to me in the years to come.