Alumni Spotlight

Paul O'Dwyer - Dental Surgeon

17 Oct
Paul O'Dwyer

Paul O’Dwyer is a Dental Surgeon, and Group Clinical Advisor for Dental Care Ireland, a new Irish-owned network of established dental practices nationwide. He is also a part-time guest lecturer at the Institute of Leadership in the Royal College of Surgeons, and is a regular media commentator on oral health issues. Paul looks back fondly on his college days and gives some advice to today’s students!

Course/subjects studied in University College Cork

I studied Dentistry, graduating in 1997. However, like most students, I had an insatiable curiosity for other subjects – and in the first 2 years on campus, occasionally attended other lectures (!) – particularly Sociology, History, Politics and French … (shhhh – don’t tell the Fees Office !!!)

Best memory of UCC

Like so many alumni, I have many happy memories of time in “De College”. But perhaps an abiding memory is the end of Exams Week in May. That lost bastion of wild abandon, The Western Star – was the annual venue for the end of exams. With the gruelling timetable of closely spaced exams., usually scattered around Campus – with locations as diverse as Kampus Kitchen and Highfield Rugby Club (!), the class and a large section of the student body would descend on the mammoth beer garden in The Western Star. As the sun set Lee side, on those balmy May evenings, the whoops and hollers of relief echo still, as almost everyone you knew was gathered on that hallowed ground – with the promise of an endless summer stretching out ahead.

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

Mark Twain famously said: “Never let schooling interfere with your education”. A credo I personally took to heart. With so many opportunities available to students, I threw myself into studies and the social scene at UCC. In final year, I was preparing a scientific paper for publication, studying for final examinations, finishing patient treatment plans and, as Auditor of the Dent Soc, working with Committee to host the Dental Ball. Those hectic days in my early 20s inadvertently taught the skill of multi-tasking. A skill necessary now, more than ever, for the demands of a busy work/life balance. As I now juggle the demands of National Group Clinical Advisor with Dental Care Ireland, with the demands of External Lecturer at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland – I have found those early days of prioritisation and time-management have stood to me.

What is your advice to current UCC students?

Get involved! The diverse Clubs and Societies at UCC afford a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience all types of sport and pursuits. The UCC Philosophical Society (Philosoph) was always a cauldron of intrigue and lively debate. The 
Historical Society famously invited Colonel Oleg Grodievsky (former KGB) to address the members – a most memorable evening. Roddy Doyle read from his then new book “The Snapper” in Boole 3, the late Dermot Morgan (Fr. Ted) brought his roadshow to Boole 2, Professor Anthony Clare debated that all change was good, and Brendan O’Connor (now of RTE/Irish Independent) waxed lyrical on the issues of the day… Plus ca change, plus a la meme chose?
I am confident that similar contemporary experiences await all in UCC to this day.

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

Dr Robin O’Sullivan of the Department of Anatomy provided the most inspiring lectures. Under his mentorship, in Third Dental, I completed Health Research Board (HRB) funded research – for which I was honoured to receive the Intervarsity Undergraduate Research Award for College in 1995. Dr O’Sullivan’s enthusiasm for the core sciences, lead to hosting an International Symposium on Oral Biology at UCC, allowing us undergraduates to rub shoulders with the giants of the field. Names usually seen on the spines of textbooks were present in College to lecture and exchange ideas. I am privileged to call Robin a friend to this day.
An honourable mention should also be given to my circle of friends in the various faculties – who provided the camaraderie, friendship and occasional solace (when needed) during those hectic years – a network of stalwarts whom I regularly meet Lee-side still.

Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?

Elected Class Rep., and latterly Auditor of UCC Dental Society (Dent Soc.), I recommend all students to get involved. I have found since leaving College that those who get involved, generally tend to cross paths in later life – with many Presidents of Dental Council tracing their fledgling leadership skills to UCC.

Favourite UCC legend or superstition

In the days before Social Media, mobile phones and the internet, good “intel” was hard to come by. Many UCC students from the 1980s and early 1990s will recall “The Fla Wall” (Cork people will know what a “Fla” is… !!!) The story, suggests that the female students would write the name of a particular male student with request for details – with the legend “Any info on….” The location of this mythical oracle was the wall in the Old College Bar Ladies loos! To this day, almost a quarter of century from entering UCC, I wonder if the secrets and honours of such a mention lie hidden beneath the paint work of the Old College Bar…..

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