Spotlight 2018

Dr Joey Byrne - Medicine Graduate

9 Jul 2018
Dr Joey Byrne

Medicine graduate, Dr. Joey Byrne, works in Sydney, Australia as a Consultant Anaesthetist at Westmead Hospital, one of Sydney’s major tertiary referral centres. The hospital has a particular expertise in handling major trauma cases which is a specialism of Dr Byrne. He has worked in both Ireland and Australia in anaesthesia training and holds Fellowship Diplomas from the College of Anaesthetists of Ireland and the Australian New Zealand College of Anaesthetists. He talks to us about his college days and how moving to Cork was the best decision of his life!

Course/subjects studied in UCC and year of graduation?
Back in 2001 I made the best decision of my life and moved from Dublin to Cork to undertake a Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine at UCC. This choice eventually led to what my wife Kathleen would describe as being the luckiest thing of all “being married to a wonderful supportive Cork woman” and having three wonderful children too!

For five years I studied all facets of Medicine with its interesting, often challenging and diverse range of subjects that requires one to be a doctor. I graduated in June 2006 as a Bachelor of Medicine, Obstetrics, Surgery and Medical Science and proudly added the letters MB BAO BCh & BMedSci to my name (I have a few more now!). I continued my postgraduate education over the next 12 years beginning in surgical training before finally seeing the light and entering the wonderful world of anaesthesia. I have worked both in Ireland and Australia in Anaesthesia training and hold Fellowship Diplomas from both the College of Anaesthetists of Ireland and the Australian New Zealand College of Anaesthetists.

Best memory of University College Cork?
My best memory of UCC? This is honestly the hardest question to answer. UCC is a collegiate, inclusive and friendly place and even accepted a Dub such as myself! I have nothing but fond memories of my first day in college and being the first group in for human dissection class (the reaction of some classmates was certainly entertaining), having a few bevvies with classmates at the “The Western Star & The Thirsty Scholar”, dancing the night away at “Fast Eddies”, Tux-ing it up at the Med Ball, epic class trips to Killarney and Dingle, the fancy dress parties at Halloween, turning our college house staircase into a slide, you know the typical college life stuff. However, if I had to pick one lasting memory it is the moment when myself and my colleagues signed our names with the “Dr. Prefix” for the first time. It was after the final exams and we were in Havana, Cuba eating at a restaurant called “La Bodeguita Del Medio”. Here we graffitied the wall with our “Dr” signatures, now I’m not confessing to a crime, it’s a tradition there that tourists are encouraged to sign their name on the walls, so their visit is immortalised, a tradition that was credited to Ernest Hemmingway. I was merely doing what all UCC medical graduates should do, follow in the footsteps of remarkable people and leave their own mark everywhere they go

How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?
UCC Medical School produces some of the hardest working graduates with excellent background clinical skills that are a credit to the Clinical School and the Munster teaching hospitals, mainly because of the level of clinical engagement and consultant lead teaching that is afforded to its students. To this day I still echo the clinical examination skills and wisdom of Dr Bernard Creedon as I pass on the knowledge to students here in Australia.

More importantly as an underprivileged kid from Dublin I relied heavily on the support of the then UCC Access Programme (UCC PLUS+). Thanks to the support of Michèle Power, Olive Byrne, Maeve Minihane and all the support staff of the programme I would not have graduated, let alone with honours. My thanks also must also go to the then Dean of Medicine Professor Michael Murphy, who took a gamble on accepting a kid from a disadvantaged secondary school without the required CAO points. I guess he must have realised that even the best card players can be dealt a bad hand. So, every time I save a life, alleviate pain or suffering, or get someone through a difficult operation, it is all thanks to UCC and the dedicated work of the staff of the Access Programme UCC PLUS+ they are the real heroes!

What is your advice to current UCC students?
Stop and smell the roses! Life is long and hard, take time to enjoy the finer things in life. Take breaks from study and stop being too focused on achieving high marks, do your personal best and don’t let the fear of failure cripple you! We learn from our mistakes and it makes us stronger and more motivated in the long run to achieve what we want. Don’t neglect your friends either, the friends you make at UCC will be life long and they will help you through anything and everything college and life throws at you.

Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?
Too Many! I was Class Rep. in 1st year and I was heavily involved with Health week and the Students Union as a fresher. I also had the pleasure of being elected Med Soc. Auditor in 3rd year where I had a lot of fun with my society members organising some of the most infamous nights of 2003/2004, nights that we are happy Facebook and Snapchat didn’t document! Being a member of a Society is honestly a great way to make friends and integrate with peers from other years and from other courses so if you’re not part of one this year I encourage you to join at some stage!

What person/people at UCC had the most positive influence on you?
Every Anaesthetist I ever met as a student in Cork, they always blew my mind by teaching and applying the knowledge of physiology/pharmacology/physics and anatomy to every problem a patient could have, even in the most critical of situations. Besides these magical wizards of health, the people whom were the most positive influences in my life were (and still are) the friends I made while at UCC. Some of them were literally the first people I met on campus in the queue for registration! My friends have inspired me, encouraged me and been there through thick and thin and still to this day continue to support me. Even though we are all spread around the globe working in our specialities we still find the time to catch up on WhatsApp and meet for a cheeky beer at international conferences!

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