Alumni Spotlight

Maeve Hurley - founder of Ag Eisteacht

4 Feb 2019
Maeve Hurley

Dr Maeve Hurley is a UCC graduate and former GP who is the founder of Ag Eisteacht, an Irish registered charity. The charity empowers frontline practitioners across the healthcare, education, social, youth, justice, disability and community sectors through training and advocacy.

Maeve’s vision is to equip frontline practitioners with the skills to build more responsive relationships with clients in order to ensure better outcomes. She has presented talks and workshops at IFCA International Conference, the Enable Ireland Conference and to the Royal College of Physicians Ireland. She also works with the UCC GP Registrar Scheme and enjoys seeing trainees develop their relational ability. Last year, the charity’s CPD-approved, evidence-based ABLE (Adopt a relational approach, Build, Listen and Empower) training was commended in the Irish Healthcare Awards 2018.

Course/subjects studied in UCC and year of graduation

I studied Medicine at UCC and graduated in 1982. I then interned in Cork University Hospital, which had just opened, and I was accepted into the GP Training scheme, which I completed over three years. I spent the following two years doing six-month hospital placements and went on to work in general practice in Cork and the UK.

Best memory of University College Cork

Being part of a class group – there were over 80 of us so there was a great sense of belonging, friendship, identity and fun. I remember care-free days in Kinsale, singsongs in the Western Star and a large group of us heading off to Achill Island when we finished final med.

How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?

My college days and training in clinical medicine helped me to develop strong clinical skills and this meant I was competent at my job and was relatively confident that my training was adequate when I started my internship in CUH. Being part of a class group helped me to recognise my own values and realise that relationships and a sense of belonging are important. I learned a lot from being part of a mixed class and seeing the diversity of approaches to life in terms of studiousness, love of learning, competitiveness and peer support - a great life lesson. I drew on all of that experience when in GP practice, and realised the importance of seeing each patient as an individual and thinking about their needs, worries, concerns etc as well as their illness.

What is your advice to current UCC students?

Take whatever gifts you have, develop them and use them in the community which is UCC. I would encourage students to find an aspect of UCC where they can foster a sense of belonging. Perhaps you are good at debating, like film, enjoy acting or would like to be a class rep. My advice is, go for it! Get involved in the UCC community in your own unique way.

What person/people at UCC had the most positive influence on you?

It’s hard to identify one person as many of the consultants who taught us influenced me. It was interesting to see how they related to us as students and to their colleagues and patients. Prof Kirwan was an excellent surgical teacher and was able to relate to us also, sometimes with a sense of humour. I remember very clearly Dr Michael Hyland’s attitude to older people. He was respectful, mindful of people’s dignity and adopted a narrative of hope and said that older people shouldn’t be written off in any sense. That has informed my approach to older patients, relatives and friends ever since. I also remember Prof Denis O Sullivan’s interest in people, always having time to talk with patients and especially if they had West Cork connections! It was a very person-centred approach which stands at the heart of our work at Ag Eisteacht. We know that the quality of relationships is a key determinant of health and wellbeing. We advocate and train practitioners to reflect on their ability to build responsive relationships, ensuring better health and wellbeing for themselves and their patients.

Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?

I played hockey and enjoyed training, matches and particularly the many great intervarsity trips. I also organised mixed hockey matches in my class which were great fun. I played in the Quarry Cup – a mixed rugby competition in the quarry where the Boole Library now stands - more like a mud bath than a match! I volunteered to visit older people too. I used to walk over to St Finbarr’s Hospital on the Douglas Road to visit older people on a Saturday with a friend. I was part of Student Community Action and we used to visit the young men who were living in Lotamore and play pool with them. This is where I met my husband, Killian, who was also volunteering there.

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