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Medicine graduates 'eager to start' after online conferring

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Saoirse Maher was one of the graduates who logged on. Picture: Andrew Downes

Saoirse Maher was one of the graduates who logged on. Picture: Andrew Downes

Andrew Downes, XPOSURE

Saoirse Maher was one of the graduates who logged on. Picture: Andrew Downes

For Saoirse Maher and her fellow medicine graduates of the class of 2020, there was no walking up to the stage to accept their scrolls.

It was a ceremony with a difference for the 190 aspiring doctors from NUI Galway, who marked the successful completion of their studies with a virtual conferring, conducted over Facebook.

Covid-19 did not allow for a physical assembly and, instead, graduands logged on to receive their Honours Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, and Bachelor of Obstetrics (MB, BCh, BAO) degree.

It was the first time in the university's 175-year history not to hold physical conferring ceremonies, and it will be followed tomorrow with a research conferring, with more than 110 students graduating.

The timing was also unusual, with NUI Galway bringing forward both the final-year medical exams and the graduation to ensure graduates would be available to enter the healthcare workforce, at a time when the need was never greater.

Making yesterday's event more exceptional were video messages from Health Minister Simon Harris and the executive director of the World Health Organisation's Health Emergencies Programme, Dr Michael Ryan, a fellow graduate of NUI Galway and the international face of the battle against Covid-19, lauding their achievements.

Saoirse (23) shared her big moment at home in Oranmore, Co Galway, in the company of her proud parents Elma and Declan, brother Rian and the family dog, Freddie.

While medical graduates usually start in hospitals in July, Saoirse said they were starting in late May.

"I don't know yet where I will be going.

"We will be told in early May. Everyone is eager to start working," she said.

NUI Galway president Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said these were extraordinary times and the university was deeply disappointed that it could not share the special day with graduates in person.

He said they planned to hold more informal, but nonetheless meaningful, events in the autumn, circumstances permitting, to mark the success of those who were graduating remotely this week.

"These are important days in the life of our university and our students and we look forward to marking them together in better times," he said.

Irish Independent