'I'd like Marian Finucane's job' - Dr Ciara's ambitions for more radio success
Published 25/09/2016 | 02:30
Dr Ciara Kelly is riding high ahead of her new radio show.
The doctor, who dishes out advice and guideance on RTE's massive hit Operation Transformation and is a columnist with the Sunday Independent, is also filming a documentary on 'body shopping' which follows the lives of a group of Irish people as they undergo cosmetic surgery.
"It's just gone up and up and up a gear," she says of her career crescendo.
"Until I was in my late 30s, I had never done anything in the media, nor had I thought about getting into it. It wasn't on my radar. I had thought about writing a book on my laptop by myself in the corner of my room but I had never thought about the rest of it," she says.
"The fact that I am about to launch my own radio show on Newstalk is exciting because - if I ever had any dream or goal in life - it would have been two things: to have a radio show, because I just love talking to people, and to write a book."
She emphasised that this will be a work of fiction but admits she will draw on her experiences and insights gleaned from years of one-on-one consultations and what it has taught her about human nature. The Wicklow-based GP, who continues to work in her practice four days a week, says her recent trajectory has left her pinching herself.
"It feels brilliant. I actually feel like I am on an adventure in my life," she said.
And speaking about her ultimate goal: "I'd like Marian Finucane's job."
Speaking about the recognition she gets, Dr Kelly says: "I exist in my own little bubble. I walk in and my friends and family will always say, 'Oh there is someone looking over' and I say, 'No, no, nobody knows who I am and as far as I am concerned, nobody knows who I am and nobody recognises me.
"If anyone does come up to say hello I always say hello back and chat. But in my head, I walk around and I am just thinking, 'You know what? I am just invisible. No one can see me', - and that way it's all fine. That is the way I deal with it."
She believes the most warmth has come from the small rural town in Co Wicklow, where she lives and works.
"I suppose I have become, within my own community, a person who might have a modicum of respect.
"So if there is something going on and someone asks you to comment on health or planning or whatever, I think that's a very nice feeling and I also think I have gotten an awful lot of support from my local 'townspeople', that they kind of see me as a - and I think because I went away and trained as a doctor and came back - local person done good."
The well-known GP explains how people travel from as far away as Limerick and Kerry - and even London - to her surgery after seeing her on TV or listening to her on her former slot on George Hook's show.
"I always feel sorry for them because they see me on something and they think, 'Oh she must be really good' and it's an accident that I am on things in the first place because I am no better than any other doctor.
"So I always think, 'Oh God, the poor people, they are after travelling' and I always feel like I am short-changing them because they are coming to a completely normal doctor. I am not a special doctor in any way at all.
"It makes me feel quite inadequate because I always say, 'Oh God, there are many good doctors in Kerry and Limerick, you'd be better off not coming all the way up," she laughs, "but maybe they get a day out in Dublin at the same time."
After spending most of her career in the privacy of her doctor's surgery, she says the spotlight is not something she is fully at ease with.
"I would not be 100pc comfortable with too much attention. I know it sounds peculiar but I am not."
Reflecting on how her straight-talking column impacts on the lives of her young family, she says her son has taken her up on everything from her work dishing out protein supplements to a more intimate piece on vaginal clenching.
"I think he said, 'Mum, are you talking about vaginas again?' And I say, 'Love, they are just a part of the body'.
"I don't really like euphemisms. I think it still gives the impression that sex is dirty or wrong, whereas I think it's a totally natural bodily function."
But she says her work is kept very separate from her private life.
And as a couple, they made the decision that her husband would remain firmly out of the spotlight.
"As he would see it, I signed up for it and he didn't.
"He works in a normal job in the HSE in a very ordinary, rural town. He doesn't see this as part of his life and I think that's fair enough and I think I would always respect that."
'Alive and Kicking with Ciara Kelly' kicks off next Sunday on Newstalk 106 from 9am to 10am