Chief Medical Officer and President of Ireland congratulate more than 130 graduating UL medical students

UL President, Dr Des Fitzgerald Picture Sean Curtin True Media

MORE than 130 new doctors who have graduated from University of Limerick are the first-ever to be conferred remotely in absentia due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The full class of 132 Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery (BMBS) 2020 graduates received their exam results this Wednesday and having been conferred, their degree results will be forwarded to the Irish Medical Council for registration so they can begin work as soon as possible.

The Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and President Michael D Higgins have sent messages of congratulations to over 130 new doctors who have graduated from University of Limerick.

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, said in a specially recorded video message to the students that he was “glad to have the opportunity to celebrate with you today a wonderful achievement in graduating from the University of Limerick medical school”.

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“I grew up in the locality, I didn’t have the opportunity because there was no medical school there so your graduation is not only a testament to the work you have put in, supported by your families, but also the vision and the work of the University authorities and leaders over a number of years and your deans and everybody else in the medical school, to put you in the position to be able to graduate from a fine University – and to have this achievement as one to which you can be enormously proud,” Dr Holohan said.

The Chief Medical Officer said the healthcare environment the graduates would move into now “is going to be hugely challenged by the coronavirus epidemic that we face”.

He said, “It will create a significant reality for us, which is very different to what any of us experienced who are in the position that you are in today graduating.

“That is a challenge that I know you will rise to, and today is a day of wonderful achievement – you are coming in a wonderful profession. Your choice of career will be enormous in the future – some of you might even do public health. And if you are inspired to do public health, get in touch.”

UL President Dr Des Fitzgerald paid tribute to the newly qualified doctors, congratulating them on a “terrific achievement” saying the new doctors “should be so proud, as we are of you”.

“These are extraordinary times and so here we are, conferring upon you your degrees in absentia,” he said in a recorded message to the graduates.

“A global disease has reached us we must do the one thing that prevents this disease spreading – stay apart. Normally, this hall would be full with the students and families seated in the stalls. However, we are in a different time and we must adapt.”

Dr Fitzgerald hailed the new medics as they prepare to take to the fight against COVID-19.

“In a few weeks, you will be in the hospitals and clinics here and abroad. You have been asked to start early, but don’t worry, your education and training at UL has prepared you for the challenge,” said Dr Fitzgerald.

“It might seem daunting, but you will work with experienced nurses and doctors as part of a team that will guide you and support you.

“Some of you will be assigned to teams looking after COVID-19 patients, in our hospitals here or overseas or to a field hospital, like the one being developed on the campus of UL.

“Everything you have heard is correct, this is a dangerous virus, your colleagues and you may contract the disease, but we have learned a lot in the past few months.

“I won’t sugar coat this, you are the vanguard in the fight against a deadly disease, so listen to your colleagues on the frontline and you will prevail.

The UL President added that the remote conferring was not how the university would have celebrated the graduates’ achievement but by “keeping apart we are saving lives every day”.

“Although we cannot mark this occasion in person, know that at UL and especially at GEMS, we celebrate you, we celebrate your success and you will remain in our minds and hearts as you go forward to the front line in tackling this pandemic both here at home and abroad,” he added.

President Michael D Higgins said in his message to the graduates that he “understands that students have awoken abruptly to changes in their way of life, and that uncertainty, anxiety and fear has taken hold in our universities and communities, but it is encouraging to see how so many people are acting in solidarity with others”.

“Students have risen to the challenges posed by the precautionary measures,” he said, adding he “thanks all those who have supported the students throughout their studies” and his “his best wishes on your virtual conferring occasion”.

Professor Rachel Msetfi, Executive Dean, Faculty of Education and Health Sciences at UL, said the graduation “marks the culmination of four-years of studying and hard work in hospitals, GP practices and community health settings”.

Professor Msetfi said, “Your educational journey has no doubt been challenging and during this time you have found the strength and tenacity to keep going and have benefited from the support of your family and friends.”

She noted the final part of the graduates’ programme took place in “particularly challenging times” as they prepare to enter their careers “during an unprecedented global pandemic”.

“Many of you will shortly take up internships and be on the frontline of the health services. There will certainly be challenges ahead and the education you have received during your time at the University of Limerick will stand you in good stead to cope with these,” she added.