Summer Studentship in General Practice Research

UCD School of Medicine seeks applications for the 2020 Dr Mary J Farrell Summer Studentship in General Practise Research. This SSRA was established in 2019 in memory of Dr Mary J Farrell (MB BCh BAO 1916, MD, MAO, DPH).

The studentship commemorates the distinguished career of a much-loved general practitioner and UCD Medicine alumna who helped lay the foundations for modern general practice care in Ireland.  This award was made possible through the kindness and generosity of her niece Patricia O’Kelly and the Farrell Family.

Applications are sought from students on the UCD Medicine degree programme for a funded studentship in General Practice Research. This studentship will provide a student with a comprehensive introduction to general practice research, and s/he will participate in a range of activities, including

  • learning about conducting a literature review, qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • analysing data and preparing reports
  • disseminating his / her work, specifically presenting a poster at the 2020 SSRA Poster Evening, a national scientific meeting, drafting a manuscript for publication in a scientific journal.

The successful student will undertake a research project relating to an aspect of enhancing access to care in the community. 

Student stipend: €2500 per eight week plus travel bursary of €500 to attend a national / international meeting.

To apply students must supply a letter of application indicating why they wish to undertake the research, what skills they would bring to the project and what they hope to gain from the studentship (maximum 500 words). Email applications are to: by 28th February 2020.  

About Dr Mary J Farrell

Dr Mary J Farrell as a graduate

Longford woman, Mary J Farrell graduated with a first class honours degree in Medicine (MB BCh BAO) on the 19th July 1916.  She continued her postgraduate studies through the 1920’s, completing a Doctor of Medicine (MD 1921), a Masters of Obstetrics (MAO 1922) and a Diploma in Public Health (DPH 1924).  Throughout a distinguished career she pioneered community medicine, serving in Ireland, England and Africa. [more] 

Mater Rugby Wins 2019 Hospitals Cup

Northsiders Show Trinity Fed No Mercy As They Claim Their 26th Title

The Mater Hospital rugby team claimed their 26th Dublin Hospitals Rugby Cup with victory over the Trinity Federated Hospitals in the 2019 Final of Dublin Medical Schools’ oldest sporting competition.

The North Dublin hospital team comprising medical students and doctors of Mater University Hospital RFC managed by Professor Colm O’Brien (UCD Professor of Ophthalmology at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital) defeated the Trinity Federated Hospitals managed by UCD Medicine alumnus, Professor Con Feighery (UCD Medicine 1970).

The final which is normally played in Anglesea Road on the last Friday before Christmas was postponed until 24th January 2020 and re-arranged for Monkstown RFC due to an unplayable pitch. 

In a fast, open game in front of a large attendance, the Mater had tries from Rory Murphy, Mike Oyuga and Eamonn Byrne with conversions by Thomas McCarthy and Joe Taylor.  Richard Liddy and Tim Nugent finished off 2 splendid passing movements from inside their 22 for Trinity Federation who were looking for their first title in 28 years.

Mater thus notched up their fourth* win in the past five years and their 26th win in a tournament they first won in 1897 but which has been dominated by St Vincent’s University Hospital with 33 wins. 

The Dublin Hospitals cup was inaugurated in 1881/82 by a group of surgeons and physicians from Dublin Hospitals and with the exception of from 1916-1917 and 1945-1946, the competition has run without interruption making it one of the oldest rugby competitions in the world.

The continued popularity of the Dublin Hospitals Cup has allayed fears that the amalgamation of Dublin Hospitals might lead to the demise of the competition.  The competition has in fact gone from strength to strength under the organisational direction of Dr Morgen Crowe and Dr Niall Swan (St Vincent’s Hospital) and it continues to occupy a cherished place in our students’ sporting calendar.  Currently teams from the Mater, St Vincent’s, the Federated Hospitals (Tallaght combined with St James’s), Beaumont and the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine contest the Dublin Hospitals Rugby Cup.  Over the years many medical students have gone on to play international rugby for Ireland and the British & Irish Lions.


Recent Dublin Hospital Cup Winners 

2019 Mater Hospital

2018 Mater Hospital

2017 Beaumont Hospital

2016 Mater Hospital

2015 Mater Hospital

2014 St. Vincent’s Hospital

2013 St. Vincent’s Hospital

2012 St. Vincent’s Hospital

2011 St. Vincent’s Hospital

2010 St. Vincent’s Hospital

2009 St. Vincent’s Hospital

2008 Beaumont Hospital

2007 Beaumont Hospital

2006 Mater Hospital

2005 Mater Hospital

2004 Mater Hospital

2003 Mater Hospital

2002 Mater Hospital

2001 Mater Hospital

2000 Mater Hospital

1999 St. Vincent’s Hospital

1998 Mater Hospital

1997 St. Vincent’s Hospital

1996 Mater Hospital

1995 St. Vincent’s Hospital

1994 Beaumont Hospital

1993 St. Vincent’s Hospital

1992 St. Vincent’s Hospital



* Article updated.  We previously reported in error that the 2018 Hospital Cup had been won by St Vincent's Hospital.  We are happy to correct this error and acknowledge Mater Hospital's dominance of this competition in recent year by winning four out of the last five titles.  The Mater victory in 2015 ended a run of 6 Hospitals Cup titles for St Vincent's Hospital. 

Supporting Women Through Cancer Treatment

Groundbreaking New Clinics to Support Women with Devastating Cancer Treatment Side Effects

A ground-breaking new initiative by the Irish Cancer Society will support women who are struggling with the life-changing side effects of cancer treatment.  The new Women’s Health Initiative will see clinics established in Dublin and Cork aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of female cancer survivors. These clinics have been created in close consultation with patients who are often suffering devastating side effects from cancer treatment such as sexual dysfunction, fatigue and psychological issues.

One such woman is Anne Nally-Keenan, who was 29-years-old and 29 weeks pregnant when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2012. After delivering her first child, Anne went through intensive treatment for her cancer.  Eight years and over a dozen surgeries later, Anne still lives with the after effects of her diagnosis.

“I’ve come through the fight of my life with cancer, but every day I still have to live with incredibly challenging symptoms from my treatment. Issues like early menopause and infertility are not things a woman in her 30s should have to go through, but this programme will be really useful to women in a similar position to myself,”

Anne said.

Building on the best existing international expertise, the specialist nurse-led clinics will offer a range of supports, from referrals to specialist services and tailored treatment plans to under-appreciated aspects of survivorship including physical activity and diet.

Commenting on the Women’s Health Initiative, Irish Cancer Society Chief Executive Averil Power said,

 “The stories we hear from some women survivors on the side effects they endure after cancer treatment are heart-breaking. From intimacy issues to crippling fatigue there are so many ways in which these women are being impacted.

“Through this initiative we now have an opportunity to really help these women manage their side effects and live better lives,”

she added.

The clinics, led at Cork University Hospital by Medical Oncologist Professor Roisin Connolly of UCC and by UCD Professor of Gynae-Oncology, Prof Donal Brennan across sites at the Mater and St Vincent’s hospitals in Dublin, supported by the National Maternity Hospital, will run on a pilot basis for two years commencing in 2020.

Recruitment of patients for the clinics will take place over the coming months, and it is hoped that the pilot scheme will eventually lead to the roll-out of a national programme for cancer survivors.  An online tool developed with the clinics will also be available to women around the country regardless of their location.

The programme is the result of an €890,000 investment by a consortium including the Irish Cancer Society, the HSE, The Mater Private Hospital, the National Cancer Control Programme, Breakthrough Cancer Research, the National Maternity Hospital Foundation and Pfizer Ireland.

About the Women’s Health Initiative

For survivors of cancer, the pathway for managing and overcoming the often challenging symptoms arising from their initial treatment can be unclear. A ground-breaking new initiative by the Irish Cancer Society aims to address a long-standing gap in the identification and management of symptoms for women which have resulted from their courses of treatment.  This wide range of symptoms can include anything from fatigue, incontinence, lymphoedema, and severe psychological distress to other difficulties such as significant intimacy problems, infertility and rapid premature menopause.

The Women’s Health Initiative aims to improve health and wellbeing for women cancer survivors at all stages of their journey through the establishment of pilot clinics to be based in Cork and Dublin.

Funding support of €400,000 from the Irish Cancer Society has been the catalyst for a total investment of €890,000 over two years by a consortium also involving the HSE, The Mater Private Hospital, the National Cancer Control Programme, Breakthrough Cancer Research, the National Maternity Hospital Foundation and Pfizer Ireland.

As part of the initiative, the ‘Women’s Cancer Survivorship: Supporting and Innovating for Change’ programme led by Medical Oncologist UCC Professor Roisin Connolly at Cork University Hospital and the ‘Life After Cancer Clinic’ (LACC) led by UCD Professor of Gynae-Oncology Donal Brennan at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital will provide the first dedicated clinics for female cancer survivors nationwide.  Both programmes will coordinate the delivery of a range of general and specialist health supports for female cancer survivors while also using latest technology to make the services more widely accessible for women regardless of their location.

Dublin pilot

Based at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, the ‘Life After Cancer Clinic’ (LACC) is a nurse-led pilot that will initially focus on breast and gynaecological cancer survivors. Developed in consultation with Prof Martha Hickey of the University of Melbourne, it will see over 250 women issued with a survivorship passport which includes a written treatment plan for their cancer as well as guidance on physical activity and information on diet and stopping smoking.

Women will be able to remotely complete an online assessment through the LACC app developed as part of the programme, which will assess their needs and refer them to information and local services as needed. The service will be accessible through a number of straightforward routes, with a second clinic also opening at St Vincent’s University Hospital supported by the National Maternity Hospital within the two-year pilot.

Cork pilot

Developed in collaboration with researchers from the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Centre at Johns Hopkins in the US, and supported by Prof Josephine Hegarty from the UCC School of Nursing and Midwifery, the ‘Women’s Cancer Survivorship’ programme will work with women at Cork University Hospital and regional hospitals who have completed their primary cancer therapy.

Using symptom management pathways developed as part of the programme, those using the new Survivorship Clinic will receive a Survivorship Plan and education on the management of important symptoms, and will be needs-assessed for referrals to appropriate specialists.

Improving survivors’ quality of life

Over the course of the two-year pilot phase the Women’s Health Initiative will be monitored for effectiveness and potential improvements based on patient experiences and outcomes.

By focussing on this vital yet undervalued aspect of patient treatment pathways the Women’s Health Initiative aims to ultimately decrease the frequency and burden of symptoms, helping to empower women to manage their side effects and bringing about improvements in health-related quality of life as a result of evidence-based treatments.

Furthermore, it will provide specialised training and development for a range of medical and support staff based at various programme pilot sites across Cork and Dublin, who will benefit from knowledge-sharing with leading global experts in the area of cancer survivorship.

The Women’s Health Initiative is supported by the National Cancer Control Programme as part of the National Cancer Strategy 2017-2026.

For Women Requiring Support

Women who require support for their cancer diagnosis and resultant symptoms are advised to contact the Irish Cancer Society Nurseline on Freephone 1800 200 700, via email at, or their oncologist or GP.

UCD Learning Enhancement Projects

Congratulations to Dr Thomas Flanagan, Dr Mark Pickering and Associate Professor Helen Gallagher who each received funding under the UCD Teaching & Learning Enhancement Funding initiative.  The aim of this scheme is to support local engagement with teaching and learning enhancement by individuals or small teams of faculty, staff and students.  A key feature of the scheme was the requirement for students to actively participate in the implementation projects.

A total of 90 applications were submitted to the funding scheme including 14 cross-disciplinary applications and a total of 26 proposals emanating from the College of Health & Agricultural Sciences.

Successful projects from the School awarded funding included:

Dr Thomas Flanagan

Conquering ‘Neurophobia’ Using AXON: An Interactive Multimedia Resource for Enhanced Understanding of Neuroanatomy by Medicine Students

Dr Mark Pickering

Interdisciplinary, student-led design of innovative 3D learning tools in human anatomy.

Assoc. Prof Helen Gallagher

An integrated, technology-enhanced approach to prescribing education in medical degree programmes.

Full list of funded projects is available here.

Clinical Commencement Ceremony

The 2020 UCD Medicine Clinical Commencement ‘White Coat’ Ceremony took place on Friday 7th February 20209 in UCD O’Reilly Hall.  A key milestone in our medical students’ journey, the White Coat Ceremony marks the formal transition into full-time clinical training at our affiliated hospitals and general practices.

The proceedings were led by Professor Michael Keane, Dean of Medicine and Head of School, supported by a selection of our academic faculty.  Students from Stage 4 of our direct entry undergraduate and Stage 2 of our graduate entry medicine programmes took part in the ceremony which was attended by many friends and family. Prof Keane welcomed visiting dignitaries which included His Excellency Zakaria Nasir, Ambassador of Malaysia to Ireland, together with Ms Siti Noralia Mustaza, First Secretary and also Mr Ron Bolger, the Honorary Consul General of Singapore in Ireland.

As part of the ceremony, students are ‘robed’ with white coats by members of faculty as an important symbol of their transition into the role of doctor in training.  In opening the event, Prof Keane noted that this transition represents a landmark in the students’ education and one which he felt sure they would look back on fondly.  He noted that with the privilege of clinical training comes great responsibility as our students are expected to exhibit empathy, dedication and the highest standards of professionalism.

The White Coat Ceremony is an important recognition of the extensive knowledge of biomedical science that has been mastered to date which puts the students in a position to apply this knowledge of the scientific basis of health and disease in the clinical arena.  In UCD, we think it is important to mark this transition formally, and this tangible marker of career progression is very much appreciated by students, their families and their friends.

The awarding of a white coat is both practical and symbolic ;  In addition to protection of clothing and infection control, the white coat represents the increased professional privileges and responsibilities that accompany this transition.  In addition to meeting the expectations for professional practice, conduct and ethics, our students are joining a medical community in which it is the doctor’s primary responsibility to be a strong advocate for their patients, above all other considerations.

This advocacy is particularly important in a period of shrinking healthcare resources, which reinforce the need for evidence-based best practice to guide patient care.  This role also mandates development of leadership and teamwork skills, which our students will continue to seek to develop right up to their graduation and beyond. Our students’ behaviour in the clinical setting is geared toward protecting patients and optimizing their outcomes, whether it be by rigorous hand hygiene, up to date vaccination against communicable diseases, or other aspects of evidence-based clinical practice.

Prof Keane introduced Prof Tadhg O’Dwyer, consultant in otolaryngology, head & neck surgery at St Vincent’s University Hospital and the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, and UCD Head of otolaryngology.  Prof O’Dwyer welcomed the UCD Medicine Class of 2022 and their families to the event.  Prof O’Dwyer described the ‘Art of Medicine’ and the key features and characteristics are important to clinical practice.  He described the privilege and opportunity of having patient-centred clinical training and the importance of the student developing rapport, showing sympathy, concern and compassion.  Highlighting the importance of gaining the patient’s trust.

In effective medicine, the power imbued in the doctor is based on trust.  If patients have trust and confidence in their doctor they will follow his or her advice.  If Trust is absent they will not.  Trust blossoms not only because of competency and skill of the doctor but also involves sensitivity to another person's views. 

Prof O’Dwyer implored on our students to utilise the traits and characteristics taught to them by their parents.

From now on and for the rest of your life you will deal with patients.  Remember to listen to them.  Be kind and apply your scientific knowledge with a common-sense approach and your rewards will be great. 

Prof O’Dwyer reflected on his own career and a key moment in it which reminded him of the importance of achieving a good work-life balance, maintaining relationships and an inquiring mindset.

We would like to thank Prof O’Dwyer for his excellent address.  A full transcript is available here.  The School would also like to thank our students, their families, friends and supporters for making this event a memorable occasion and an important milestone in our students’ education and training.  We would also like to thank all those who followed proceedings from around the world on our webstream and the School staff for their organisation of the event.


Want to See More?

A selection of photographs from this event are available on our Flickr site.

A recording of the proceedings is available on our YouTube channel.

Researchers Publish Review in Leading Physiology Journal

School of Medicine Researchers publish review in leading physiology journal.

School Physiology researchers Prof. Cormac Taylor and Dr. Eoin Cummins have published a review article in the January 2020 edition of Physiological Reviews. This substantial review on the topic of oxygen and carbon dioxide sensing in mammals was a collaborative effort between the investigators and PhD student Moritz Strowitzki (Taylor lab).

‘The ability of mammals to adapt and respond to changes in physiological gases is critical for survival. These changes in response to oxygen or carbon dioxide can be acute, resulting in rapid modulation of breathing or more chronic due to changes in gene expression. This article comprehensively reviews for the first time the literature relating to acute and chronic responses to both oxygen and carbon dioxide’

said Dr. Cummins.

The importance of the cellular response to low oxygen (hypoxia) has recently been highlighted by the awarding of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology  for ‘discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability’. The mechanisms of how cells sense and adapt to carbon dioxide levels is relatively less well understood and is a particular focus of the Cummins lab as well as Moritz’s doctoral studies. The joint review was further highlighted for attention on the cover of the prestigious Physiological Reviews journal.

Dr Eoin Cummins, Moritz Strowitzki and Prof Cormac Taylor publish review in major Physiology Journal

Mechanisms and Consequences of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Sensing in Mammals.

Cummins EP, Strowitzki MJ, Taylor CT.

Physiol Rev. 2020 Jan 1;100(1):463-488. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00003.2019. Epub 2019 Sep 20. PMID:31539306

Fulbright US Scholar Program Opportunity

The UCD Clinical Research Centre participation in the Fulbright US Scholar Program provides an opportunity for an eligible candidate to undertake a six-month research placement at Ireland’s leading academic clinical research facility.

The Fulbright Scholar will collaborate with staff on the design and implementation of investigator initiated clinical trials in Ireland. Central to this activity will be participation on trial design, establishment and oversight.  Depending on the Scholars interest, the focus of this engagement can be on any area of clinical research, from trial design, to statistical methodologies, to outcome measures including biomarkers.  Recognising the ambition to strengthen relationships between US and Irish researchers, the scholar will also be invited to participate in mentoring of junior faculty and investigators.  In addition, the Scholar will contribute to the UCD taught MSc in Clinical and Translational Research, by delivering lectures on clinical trials.

Further information is available on the Fulbright US Scholar Programme website.

About the UCD Clinical Research Centre

The UCD Clinical Research Centre is an academic-led, multi-site patient-focused facility that supports the conduct of industry-sponsored and investigator-led clinical trials and translational research.  Founded by the UCD School of Medicine in 2006, the UCD Clinical Research Centre has had a major impact on the conduct of clinical research in Ireland establishing modern research facilities at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and St Vincent’s University Hospital.  The UCD Clinical Research Centre also supports clinical studies across a wide network of sites including Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin, the National Maternity Hospital, the Rotunda Hospital, St Luke’s Hospital Kilkenny and St James’s Hospital Dublin.  The UCD Clinical Research Centre is an active participant in Molecular Medicine Ireland and is engaged in international research collaborations.

Improving Reliability of GDM Diagnosis

UCD Research to Improve Reliability of Glucose Measurements Commended

A body of research by UCD researchers into improving the reliability of gestational diabetes diagnosis has been commended in a recently published Clinical Chemistry editorial.  The three papers were key outputs of PhD research by Dr Niamh Daly (UCD Medicine 2004, PhD 2018) and Dr Eimer O’Malley, current PhD student under the supervision of Prof Michael Turner at the UCD Centre for Human Reproduction, Coombe Women & Infants Hospital.

The diagnosis of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), a glucose intolerance that emerges during pregnancy, is highly dependent on reliable measurement of plasma glucose levels.  Correct diagnosis and management is important as maternal hyperglycaemia is associated with increased birth weight, increased risk of Caesarean delivery and pregnancy-related complications.

The UCD Centre for Human Reproduction at the Coombe Women & Infants Hospital have undertaken extensive research into ensuring the analytical reliability of plasma glucose measurement in the context of diagnosing GDM.  In routine diabetes care, plasma levels are typically measured at specified intervals before and after a glucose challenge.  However while non-obstetric diabetes diagnosis involves extensive characterisation and monitoring, gestational diabetes often relies on a single point measurement.

A major source of error in glucose measurement is the loss of glucose from blood specimens through red and white blood cell-mediated glycolysis.  This analytical error risks the under-diagnosis or misdiagnosis of GDM and has been the subject of much investigation by Prof Michael Turner’s group at the Coombe Hospital in recent years.

The Association of the American College of Endocrinology and the American Diabetes Association have developed guidelines on laboratory testing in diabetes.  The Turner group’s research has highlighted the critical importance of these analytical procedures in ensuring reliable glucose measurement and it is recognised that the recommendations are not always followed in GDM testing especially in resource-limited facilities.

PhD research at the UCD Centre for Human Reproduction has focused on examining and eliminating the sources of variability in plasma glucose measurement for the diagnosis of GDM.  They noted that strict observance of the recommended analytical chemistry protocol resulted in a 2.7-fold increase in the rate of diagnosis of GDM.

A prospective observation study evaluated the use of point of care measurements, which are routinely only recommended for monitoring GDM.  They concluded that in high-resource settings where measures to inhibit glycolysis are implemented, the use of POC measurements are not justified for reliable diagnosis.  In low- and medium-resource settings where strict compliance with analytical protocols cannot be assured, regression analysis using POC measurements may be acceptable compared with plasma samples which are subject to glycolysis.

The UCD group have also examined the use of alternative blood tubes which contain citrate as well as fluoride and EDTA (CFE tubes) compared with conventional NaF tubes.  They demonstrated a doubling of diagnostic sensitivity of oral glucose tolerance tests using the CFE tubes and recommended that their widespread adoption would minimise or eliminate variability in diagnostic sensitivity attributable to variable delays in sample processing.  There remain issues with the commercial availability of CFT tubes that limit their widespread adoption, however.

An editorial by Bruns, Metzger and Sacks in Clinical Chemistry highlighted the work of the UCD group and endorsed their conclusion of limited support for the use of glucose meters in GDM diagnosis.

We congratulate O’Malley and colleagues on their multiple, well-performed studies to define the best practices for diagnosis of GDM. They have highlighted the critical need to address preanalytical factors in measurements of glucose and provided valuable insights into ways to improve outcomes for women and newborns.

The editorial’s authors where co-investigators in a landmark 2008 multinational clinical study called the ‘Hyperglycaemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes Study (HAPO)’ which examined the relationships between glucose intolerance and clinical outcomes in over 23,000 pregnancies.


Selected Publications by UCD Centre for Human Reproduction

Impact of Implementing Preanalytical Laboratory Standards on the Diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus: A Prospective Observational Study.

Daly NFlynn ICarroll CFarren MMcKeating ATurner MJ.

Clin Chem. 2016 Feb;62(2):387-91. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2015.247478. Epub 2015 Dec 4. PMID: 26637478

Comparison of Citrate-Fluoride-EDTA with Fluoride-EDTA Additives to Stabilize Plasma Glucose Measurements in Women Being Screened during Pregnancy with an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test: A Prospective Observational Study.

Daly NFlynn I, Carroll C, Stapleton M, O'Kelly R, Turner MJ.  Clin Chem. 2016 Jun;62(6):886-7. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2016.254466. Epub 2016 Apr 21. PMID:27103574

A Prospective Evaluation of Point-of-Care Measurements of Maternal Glucose for the Diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus.

O'Malley EG, Reynolds CME, O'Kelly R, Killalea A, Sheehan SR, Turner MJ. Clin Chem. 2020 Feb 1;66(2):316-323. doi: 10.1093/clinchem/hvz005. PMID:32040574


Diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus Will Be Flawed until We Can Measure Glucose.

Bruns DE, Metzger BE, Sacks DB. Clin Chem. 2020 Feb 1;66(2):265-267. doi: 10.1093/clinchem/hvz027. PMID: 32040567

2008 HAPO Study

Hyperglycemia and adverse pregnancy outcomes

HAPO Study Cooperative Research Group1, Metzger BE, Lowe LP, Dyer AR, Trimble ER, Chaovarindr U, Coustan DR, Hadden DR, McCance DR, Hod M, McIntyre HD, Oats JJ, Persson B, Rogers MS, Sacks DA.  N Engl J Med. 2008 May 8;358(19):1991-2002. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0707943.

Dr Nicholas and Mrs Maura Martin Scholarship

Summer Medical Elective  | Mr Cormac Everard, Medicine Student

"In summer 2018, I had the incredible opportunity to experience clinical medicine in France thanks to the generosity of the Dr Nicholas and Mrs Maura Martin Scholarship, CHU Nantes and UCD’s partnership with Université Descartes.

Although undertaking the electives in French was daunting, I was very fortunate with the support I received before leaving for the summer. Through UCD’s Horizon programme, I was able to take up French in first year and study it each semester alongside the preclinical curriculum, which provided a great foundation for the summer.

To say I was nervous on my first day in Nantes would be quite the understatement! However, my fears were quickly put to rest when I met Professor Francois Raffi and the team on the infectious diseases service. Under their guidance and encouragement, I was introduced to the supervised active management of patients that characterises the French medical education, something I quickly grew to love. My four weeks in Nantes under a very encouraging team led nicely into my month’s placement at Hôpital Necker des enfants malades in Paris.

There, under the guidance of Professor Caroline Charlier-Woerther, I was lucky enough to be involved with their very encouraging infectious disease team. While in Ireland the focus is on exposure to many patients and specialities, I found the French approach was markedly different. Rather than rotate teams each week, students were attached for much longer periods and were given defined roles and responsibilities while on a service. Teaching was patient-orientated and specific to the tasks at hand. While initially my role was limited, as my confidence grew I could take on more and as the weeks passed I felt a nice sense of satisfaction from my small contributions to the care of our patients.

The opportunity to undertake placements in both Nantes and Paris was also fascinating as it gave me a good insight into the French health system, and it was interesting to compare with our system. Moreover, my summer in France was very enjoyable and insightful. While it was the French reputation in infectious diseases and public health (as well as the weather and culture) that initially spurred my interest, I came away with several unexpected insights.

From the culture of all doctors and students wearing white coats and regular clothes (no shirts or ties required and comfy footwear encouraged), to the nice sense of purpose that came with having a defined role on the team, I left feeling happier and more comfortable with clinical medicine and some of the small ways to contribute to any team, after a pretty long and challenging year of clinical studies at home.

Having the chance to work in the world’s oldest children’s hospital where the stethoscope was first discovered, and be in a service directly linked to the institute that first isolated the HIV virus highlighted to me the strength of UCD’s international partnerships, and how fortunate I have been to attend Ireland’s Global University. I will never forget this incredible experience”.


About the Dr Nicholas and Mrs Maura Martin Scholarship

The Dr Nicholas and Mrs Maura Martin Scholarship was established in 2009 in memory of Dr Nicholas Martin (BDS 1945, MB BCh BAO 1947) and Mrs Josephine Mary (Maura) Martin nee Bulger (BDS 1950) by their children (the Martin Family) to celebrate and honour their parents’ life work in the field of medicine. [more]  Dr Paul Martin (UCD Medicine 1978) is a gastroenteroloigst, Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Hepatology at the University of Miami Health Systems. 

UCD Foundation

This scholarship was facilitated through the UCD Foundation which harnesses a global community that is committed to advancing UCD as a centre of excellence in learning, education and research.

Prepared for the Future

An Interview with Prof Yvonne O'Meara

The big focus for medical schools now is ‘preparedness for practice,’ to produce graduates who are empathetic, resilient, and with the requisite skill set to function as doctors in the changing medical environment ahead, according to Prof Yvonne O’Meara, the newly appointed UCD Full Professor of Medicine & Therapeutics at Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.

The year 2020 is an auspicious one for the University, with the appointment of Prof Yvonne O’Meara as the first woman to the Chair of Medicine & Therapeutics and Prof Helen Heneghan as the first woman to the Chair of Surgery.

Prof O'Meara observed,

“We are putting a lot of work into the area of ‘preparedness for practice’ now, with a dedicated Professional Completion Module in the last semester.  We are also working to introduce our students to the ideas of self-care, professional self help and monitoring their own health, which in the past may not have received sufficient emphasis.

“We are also increasing our emphasis on practical skills with a programme of an intern shadowing which has been very well received. 

“Importantly, all of these developments are embedded in a research–rich curriculum where students learn not only current knowledge and skills but also where new knowledge comes from”.


Asked about her top priority as Professor of Medicine, she said,

The sine qua non for the Professor of Medicine, as I see it, is to be the custodian of an inspiring and high quality student experience. Of course, the Professor of Medicine also plays important roles in postgraduate education, building research capacity and representing the Medical School across the University and on the national and international stage. However, without our undergraduate and graduate entry medicine programmes, we simply would not have a medical school. Education lies at the very heart of the mission of a medical school. It accounts for a major component of our reputation. And, of course, it pays the bills”.

“We have already made great strides in medical education in UCD and the Mater, St. Vincent’s and our other teaching hospitals in Ireland East Hospital Group. We consistently lead in attracting the brightest and the best students from Ireland and across the world. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done on our curriculum – moving to a systems based approach and a modular system, reforming our assessment practices and introducing important innovations in the final year of programme. I’m delighted that so many of our students take time to immerse themselves in a research project during their time with us as this gives them a sense of where new knowledge comes from and will serve them well later in their careers.

“Our students enjoy infrastructure on the Belfield campus and hospital sites that is second to none. Over the past two decades, we have seen the development of the new medical school building, the Conway Institute, Charles Institute, Systems Biology Ireland, McAuley Centre and Clinical Research Centres, as well as our world-class Student Centre”.

“And, very importantly, our students are supported on their journey by our superb staff – both pre-clinical and clinical academic staff and our professional services and operations staff across the University.”

Asked about how the pressure on the health service affects the relationship between the medical school and its hospitals, Prof. O’Meara said.

“Our hospitals are indeed under huge pressure and do superbly well, given their limited resources. I see this on a day-to-day basis in my work on the wards, in outpatients, in the intensive care unit and in our dialysis unit. The University is also stretched by comparison with international competitors, as our EU fee levels are so low and are effectively frozen, while government investment per student is being progressively eroded. But despite these pressures, our Medical School and our affiliated hospitals are stronger together. Our teaching hospitals are central to the success of UCD Medical School, and indeed to the University, and the University affiliation is beneficial to our hospitals.

“Our Medical School is as old as our University. One of John Henry Newman’s first acts over 150 years ago was to establish the Catholic University Medical School – the antecedent of UCD Medical School. Our teaching hospitals were key to its success in the 1850s and remain so today.  And, it is important to remember how important the Medical School is, in turn, to UCD’s success more broadly. While there will be variation depending on the country, funding model and university structure, as a rule of thumb a top class medical school will account for over a quarter of a university’s research publications and citations, over a quarter of tuition fee income, over a quarter of research income and over a quarter of philanthropic income, as well as being a major contributor to the university’s reputation as a force for good in its local community.

“And, of course, it cuts both ways! Affiliation of a hospital with a successful medical school and university typically benefits the hospital in a number of important ways. First and foremost, patient outcomes are superior as practice is more likely to be evidenced-based and new diagnostics, therapies and technologies are adopted more quickly. Secondly, it is a draw for top quality staff.  Most high quality clinicians attach a premium to working in a teaching hospital – they enjoy teaching, strive to maintain their research reputation, and appreciate the wider benefits associated with a university affiliation and academic title. Thirdly, the relationship guarantees a dependable pipeline of high quality junior hospital doctors and, indeed, allied health professionals. And the affiliation provides staff on the hospital campus with access to research funding and facilities. Finally, and importantly, the hospital’s national and international reputation is enhanced through the university’s graduates, research outputs and global profile”. 

“There are, of course, always tensions between medical schools and teaching hospitals, principally around competition for resources! The most successful medical schools and teaching hospitals recognize the complexity of the relationship and the mutual benefits, and actively manage these tensions. The Professor of Medicine, as a key university leader based on the hospital sites, has an important role to play ensuring that these mutual benefits are understood.”

Prof. O’Meara said she anticipated that the key challenges over the next decade would be multiple and varied.

“I’m also certain that our Medical School and hospitals are strong enough to withstand them if we use our collective ingenuity to good effect”.

“Funding is always a challenge whether in higher education or the health service. In the short term, this is compounded by political and economic uncertainty related to Brexit, trade wars and other factors. One has to anticipate that any government will be reluctant to loosen the purse strings until these issues play out. There is a job for all of us who are passionate about education and research to do everything in our power to persuade government to invest more if we are to compete internationally, as we have done successfully for decades”.

“From an academic viewpoint we will have the exciting challenge of balancing the traditional strengths of our medical curriculum with the need to incorporate new concepts and breakthroughs in areas such as genomics, synthetic biology, precision medicine and digital health. We will also have the challenge of increasing the resilience of our students so that they can cope with this rapidly changing environment. We need our students to be competent and compassionate doctors from the day of graduation while also being equipped with the learning and life skills to incorporate new knowledge into their practice while looking after their own physical and mental health.

Asked if she had any advice for young people considering a career in medicine, she said the medicine we were practising now was quite different from what it was when she qualified. 

“There is always change and for the most part it is for the better. Things are so much better in so many ways. The graduates of the future will have to learn a lot of flexibility to adapt to new ways of working and embrace new technology. When I graduated, medicine was an incredibly rewarding and varied career, and that is still the case.  There is a lot of negativity, especially in the media, about the health service and sometimes people become demoralised. We are working under very tough conditions at present with insufficient resources, but ultimately medicine is a wonderful career and people have to stick with it, not lose heart and seek to be the drivers of change for the better. While there is a lot more to do, the environment now is much more supportive for women. I believe the new generation of doctors will have a better work-life balance than their predecessors and that is a good thing.

Prof O'Meara was in conversation with the health analyst and commentator, Ms Maureen Browne of Hartcliffe Communications.