Astronaut’s niece gets career lift-off at UL

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Kelly Hadfield who was conferred from the Graduate Entry Medical School at University of Limerick on Tuesday. Photo: Oisin McHugh

INSPIRED by her retired astronaut uncle who literally reached for the stars, Kelly Hadfield has started the countdown on her own giant career leap into the world of medicine.

The 30-year old Canadian was one of 166 students who graduated from the University of Limerick Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS) on Tuesday.

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Her uncle, Chris Hadfield, was the first Canadian to walk in space having flown two Space Shuttle missions and served as a commander of the International Space Station.

“UL was a life-changing experience,” remarked a beaming Ms Hadfield, who was supported by her parents Robin and David as well as her partner Tadgh.

Her uncle’s historic journey into celestial realms inspired her because it “normalised extraordinary accomplishments”, she said.

“Having somebody like Uncle Chris just be Uncle Chris, it really has reinforced the mind-set that you and anybody really can do anything they want to do as long as you are stubborn enough and determined enough to do it, to do the work and make that goal happen,” she said.

“It has been very influential on my own thinking, like for example the fact that I was able to come here and do medicine, that was all because of watching him, growing up with him, and I lived with him for a few years in Toronto.”

“So it’s fair to say that Uncle Chris has been a very big supporter of my life.

A GEM in Limerick’s Crown

Established in 2007, GEMS has conferred 931 medical students and 103 paramedics. The class of 2019 includes graduates in surgery and paramedic studies.GEMS is open to graduates from any discipline, employing practical and interactive approaches to learning in what is the country’s largest graduate entry programme for medicine. UL boasts a 100,000 strong alumni including support chapters in London, New York, Boston, California, Europe and East Asia.

“From a young age I always felt a really instinctive drive to always help people and I always wanted to be a doctor, but the influence of Chris came in to ‘don’t just be a doctor if you want to make any change in the world, you have to reach big, really plan and work for any scenario and honestly you can make anything happen.

“I am really proud of the influence he has had on my life in my capacity to create change because that’s what I think physicians should do, is to create change to improve the health and well-being of their communities”.

“I love Ireland, and I don’t think I could have done med-school anywhere else,” she added.

The Hadfield’s have a holiday home in West Cork, where Kelly and Tadgh plan to do some well-deserved relaxing and sightseeing over the summer.

Others graduates included students of midwifery, guidance counselling, sports psychology and sports performance.

UL president Dr Des Fitzgerald told them: “University life can be challenging, but character building. Remember your first steps through the gates and the person you were. Remember the journey and look at where you are now today. These are the experiences you can take with you to face any challenge set before you.