Some 190 medicine students in NUI Galway have graduated early to increase the number of doctors available to work during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Irish Times reported today that the college held its graduation ceremony over Facebook live stream, after the students’ final exams were held earlier than scheduled to allow them to enter the workforce as quickly as possible.
Dr Michael Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organisation’s health emergencies programme, and a graduate of NUI Galway, told the students in a recorded message that “it would be unusual if you weren’t afraid”.
“Fear keeps you safe”, Ryan said. “But you have to move forward. You have to take the precautions to keep yourself safe, you have to keep your colleagues safe and you have to keep your patients safe. By doing just that you’ll save lives.”
“You are now the heroes of the world. Learn well, protect yourselves and protect others.”
Minister for Health Simon Harris also addressed graduates in a recorded message asking them to “come work with us as we fight to save lives in our country and to keep our people safe”.
“I’m so delighted that your graduation ceremony has been fast tracked because we really need everybody on the front line as we fight and battle the global pandemic that is Covid-19”, Harris said.
“Those of you graduating today will come help us; help us save lives, help us keep our people well, help us in our national efforts to see off the coronavirus.”
NUI Galway president Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh congratulated the “extraordinary” graduates, saying: “I think you’ve been remarkable in your capacity to face change and to embrace it.”
“It will be a challenge but also a learning experience that will be like no other in this generation”, he said. “You’ve learned how to cope, how to manage, how to face difficult situations, how to work with people, and live in challenging times.”
Young, newly qualified doctors will have a “profound and remarkable role” to play during this crisis, Ó hÓgartaigh said.
Last month, Trinity’s final-year medicine students had crucial clinical assessments – worth 25 per cent of their marks for the year – moved forward five weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Third and fourth-year medicine students have since been asked by Trinity to volunteer to work in intensive care units in hospitals, as fears grow that the coronavirus pandemic could severely stretch Ireland’s healthcare system.