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Medical student who volunteered in emergency department at Cork University Hospital honoured

Six-month stint helped to support staff at height of pandemic

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Amy Brennan, a medical student at University College Cork (UCC), has been awarded a Quercus Scholarship.

Amy Brennan, a medical student at University College Cork (UCC), has been awarded a Quercus Scholarship.

Amy Brennan, a medical student at University College Cork (UCC), has been awarded a Quercus Scholarship.

A final-year medical student who volunteered to help out at the emergency department of one of Ireland’s busiest acute hospitals at the peak of the pandemic has won a prestigious award.

Amy Brennan (22), a final-year medical student at University College Cork (UCC), has been awarded a Quercus Scholarship.

The undergraduate scholarships are aimed at recognising remarkable academic and student achievement and are largely based on outstanding examination results.

Amy, from Ballincollig in Cork, said she was thrilled with the award after her initial two-week stint of volunteering in Cork University Hospital (CUH) turned into a six-month stay.

Volunteers from Irish medical and nursing schools critically helped to ease the pressure on staff who were stretched to the limit by the sheer volume of Covid-19 cases.

Such volunteers are now being singled out as the unsung heroes of Ireland’s pandemic response.

“Last March, when everyone realised the scale of the pandemic, I volunteered to help out at the emergency department at CUH,” Amy said.

After thinking she would be there as a support volunteer for just two days a week over less than a month, Amy ended up staying for six months.

While hugely demanding, she said it was an incredible experience.

“It convinced me that emergency medicine is where I would eventually like to work,” she said.

Amy paid tribute to Professor Conor Deasy and the emergency department team at CUH for the incredible work they did throughout the pandemic and for helping the volunteers settle in and feel part of the team.

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Her role initially involved preparing an equipment hub in the Covid-19 section of the department, where she was responsible for introducing multiple quality improvement projects.

These included the design of a Covid-specific resuscitation trolley and “grab bags” for the management of critically ill virus patients.

The projects improved both treatment efficiency and staff safety throughout the first surge and subsequently are still in use today.

Amy was also awarded the Archer Gold Medal in Psychiatry earlier this year.

UCC Deputy President Professor John O’Halloran said he was delighted to be able to award Quercus scholarships to the College of Medicine and Health in such a challenging year.

“I would like to congratulate the 38 recipients in what has been a hugely challenging year for them in the fight against Covid-19 and they are to be commended on this remarkable academic achievement,” he said.

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