Saturday 17 March 2018

'It's been bittersweet' - Dr Ciara Kelly on hanging up her stethoscope for radio gig

As Dr Ciara Kelly steps away from being a GP, she is finding the move to be an emotional one

CIARA KELLY: ‘Medicine is my background, but we’ll do a lot of human interest. I like talking to ordinary people.’ Photo: David Conachy
CIARA KELLY: ‘Medicine is my background, but we’ll do a lot of human interest. I like talking to ordinary people.’ Photo: David Conachy
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

For Dr Ciara Kelly this coming week marks the end of an era. After 16 years as a GP in Greystones, the country's foremost TV medic is giving up the day job and moving full-time into a media role - she will present a 12-2pm slot every weekday on Newstalk.

For all the thrill of the new challenge, she has also found the move somewhat bittersweet.

"It's been emotional," Ciara says. "I posted on Facebook this week just saying that saying goodbye is hard. I live and work in the town and I didn't just want to slip away and turn away. There is a sadness and a letting go. I think even to this day I get so much out of meeting my patients and it will be difficult to say goodbye to that."

It's easy for media neophytes to have their head turned by celebrity, but Ciara was in her 30s by the time she got into journalism and she says this helped keep her feet on the ground as her star rose.

"It wouldn't have happened at all if it wasn't for the Sunday Independent. It was supposed to be one article and now all these years later I'm leaving my practice. I was in my 30s by the time I got into media, so it wasn't like it gave me a big head or anything and my patients got used to it. We used to laugh at it. It seemed bizarre that a very ordinary, suburban GP would be turning up at awards ceremonies and so on."

Over the past few years she has been a ballast of common sense in a media landscape that increasingly features self-appointed health experts.

"I actually feel quite sorry for people because there is a lot of quackery, people are being sold things by people who are really doing an advert but not announcing it's an advert," Ciara says.

"Health has become more fashionable for people to get into, in the same way they might get into fashion. There was a girl I saw recently on social media, she had a lot of followers on Instagram and I saw that she'd said her doctor had recommended that she go on a water-based diet, also known as 'just drinking water'. That was shocking and I don't believe a doctor would recommend that. There needs to be a way of filtering the nonsense, it has to be countered."

Ciara's departure from practice means that there will be one fewer female GP in the Dublin/Wicklow area, which traditionally had a paucity of female GPs, but in recent years has seen the balance swing as more and more females choose to study medicine.

"Certainly more women are going into general practice now than men but we're only recently seeing the balance getting close to 50-50 because up until a generation ago it was very much the other way around.

"It's a tough job for parents - men or women - I would say. People often go into it in their 30s. People tend to have small kids and some women work part-time as they navigate their way through that stage of life."

The new show will mix medical subjects with politics and current affairs.

"I am who I am, medicine is my background, but we'll do a lot of human interest. I like talking to ordinary people, rather than academics and politicians, much more so than you would normally hear on a news show. We'll cover health when it's in the news but it will be news, current affairs and caller interaction primarily."

Ciara is taking over George Hook's slot, after controversial comments by the Corkman landed him in hot water. Despite this, Ciara says Hook has been among her "greatest supporters".

While the new show represents a life change, Ciara says the parallels between her old discipline and her newer one have long struck her. "When you're in a surgery you're spending maybe 15 minutes trying to get the root of something with someone, trying to connect enough with them that they can explain what is happening. It's a very similar job, and in some ways I feel as though I have been training all my working life for the radio role."

Ciara Kelly presents Lunchtime Live, 12-2pm weekdays on Newstalk

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