2004 Press Releases

16 Dec 2004

Conferring Ceremonies at University College Cork - 16 December 2004

Conferring ceremonies continued today (16 December 2004) at University College Cork with over 500 students conferred from the Faculties of Arts, Medicine & Health, Engineering and Law. There were 126 from the Faculty of Arts followed by 394 from the Faculty of Medicine & Health. Six Higher Diploma in Microelectronic Design students were conferred from the Faculty of Engineering and two Higher Diploma in Law from the Faculty of Law.

The Conferring addresses were given by Professor Michael Murphy, Dean, Faculty of Medicine & Health (see below); Professor Eamonn Quigley, Professor of Medicine and Human Physiology and Head of the Medical School, UCC (see below) and Professor Pádraig O Riain (see below).

Conferring Address by Professor Michael Murphy, Dean, Faculty of Medicine & Health, UCC
Pro Vice Chancellor, Members of the University, Guests,
The conferring ceremony at the University is one of the highlights of the year. It is the celebration of achievement, the equivalent of Thanksgiving, marking a bountiful harvest. May I, on behalf of the Faculties and the University at large, welcome you to this celebration and congratulate all our new diplomates, in Nursing, in Microelectronic Design and in Law on successful completion of what I hope were challenging and fulfilling courses.
I want to welcome particularly parents who have come to celebrate, and the partners, spouses, or 'significant others' of our new diplomates. Everyone knows that academic success is a team effort - the sweat, tears, and financial burdens have been shared over the years and it is appropriate that the celebrations and affirmation are now shared as well.

On being asked to speak to you at this conferring I was informed that there would be a large number of diplomats in nursing and a small numbers each in Microelectronic Design and in Law. However, recognising that each individual must be valued, I set out with the ambition to draft a profound oration that might meet the expectations of practitioners in all three disciplines. I have failed singularly. In search of humorous material - for all addresses must have their humourous moment - the Google Search Engine returned not a single joke that would integrate all three disciplines. Yes, there are plenty jokes about lawyers, a few about engineers, barely any about nurses and none at all about all three together. Perhaps, nowhere but in UCC could all three be put together for a single conferring! So, Lawyers and Engineers - please forgive me if I focus for the next few minutes on the nurses! They are more numerous, and this happens to be a special occasion for the discipline of Nursing.
You, nursing diplomates, have been the last, the very final cohort of students to be educated and trained in the traditional, hospital based nursing schools. Is is appropriate then to spend a few minutes reflecting on the significance of this.
In the mid 1990s, the Report of the Commission on Nursing, recommended the transfer of nursing education to the University Sector in keeping with what was regarded as international best practice. Forces such as globalisation, revolution in technology, socio-economic changes translating into more and diverse expectations in society, and new developments in disease and treatment patterns, have enhanced greatly, the challenges in nurse education. The need to conduct, as well as being familiar with research - a cornerstone of education - should be better met in the university sector. The capacity to form the student nurse into a competent and confident member of an increasingly large and complex health care team, should be fostered more effectively in the university sector, where most other team members are already educated and trained. It is vital for the success of our health service that all students in the health professions are educated and trained side-by-side, where each will acquire an understanding of the roles and contributions of other team-members, where mutual respect will be fostered, and where an understanding of the team dynamics in the care of the individual patient will be developed. Parenthetically, and to re-assure my colleagues from other faculties, I must point out that the profusion of cranes on the west side of the campus does not represent imperialist designs in the Faculty of Medicine and Health - to take over the university - the cranes are simply a signal of our university?s commitment to meet the social agenda in health - the creation of an educational environment to form an effective health care team populated by an increasing number of professionals with unique skills.

In saying all of this, I am not saying that you, today?s diplomates, educated in the traditional mode, represent an anachronism. Far from it. You are graduating from Cork nursing schools with a history of exemplary training dating back well over a century. Your predecessors have been among the most sought after nurses in health care systems throughout the world. Irish Nursing education has been the most highly regarded in the world, and it is appropriate that we should pay tribute today to the countless nuns, sisters and tutors in the Mercy, South Infirmary, Victoria, St. Finbarrs, Cork University and Bon Secours Hospitals, who have trained thousands of students over the past 100 years. Their contributions will be marked in the naming of the new Nursing School and its constituent components at Brookfield in the coming year. The high standards of teaching and of caring that they set, will always be reflected in the ethos of the new school. Their dedication will be held up as beacon for all the teaching staff who will follow in the new school, in the coming decades and century. And, of course, these schools have not simply gone away; they have been transformed. While, many of their staff have transferred to UCC, many have stayed behind to contribute to continuing nurse education, continuing professional development, in the new Education Centres in the hospitals.

Let us now return to you, the final class from the old schools. You will have had the benefits of the vocational and caring ethos of those old schools - some advantage no doubt over those learning in the the new order. You will have had three excellent years of foundation training in your profession, but it will be important for you to build on them. Education is now a life-long learning process - you must always remain students - in attitude and in practice. The new order is prescribing pathways for continuing professional education and development, which you cannot ignore. As the profession embraces sub-specialisation, of necessity of course, you must take steps to insure that you are not disadvantaged. Training for emerging career posts of Clinical Nurse Specialists, Nurse Practitioners, of Advanced Nursing Practitioners, and - dare I say - of Nursing Consultants - will be restricted to those who will have acquired the new primary Nursing Degree and who will have undertaken study for the various higher diplomas. I strongly urge you to take up the opportunity to convert to the degree programme, and to take up the opportunities for higher learning, so that you can fully capitalise on the wonderful career opportunities emerging in your profession. Sooner rather than later!

Finally, I could not deliver a conferring address related to Nursing without taking this opportunity to congratulate Prof. Geraldine McCarthy and her fine team for their extraordinary achievement in establishing the new school here. This Herculeaen task will be celebrated in the New Year, as we mark the official completion of the new McCauley School of Nursing at Brookfield.

To close, diplomates in all of the disciplines, Law, Microengineering design, and Nursing, let me say that I hope that we in UCC have served you well; that we have prepared you for the career challenges that you face in the immediate future; that we have given you the skills to continue to learn and to continue to adapt, and that we have imbued in you some sense of loyalty to the institution.

On behalf of my colleagues in the Faculties and in the University I wish you well in your new careers. May you enjoy your work, may you find it rewarding and may those you serve respect you. Congratulations to you all.

Conferring Address by Eamonn M M Quigley MD FRCP FACP FACG FRCPI
Professor of Medicine and Human Physiology and Head of the Medical School, UCC

It gives me great pleasure to speak to you today on this very special day for you, your families and friends. May I first express my sincere congratulations to the graduates and wish you every success in your next endeavour.
If I was in this position in UCC (or Queen?s College Cork as it was then known) 150 years ago, I would be addressing a small cadre of Medical students, so few indeed, that this ceremony could safely have been moved, in its entirety, to a professors office. It is a testament to progress in our country, this university and, indeed, in this very Faculty that I, today, address not just Medical Graduates and post-graduates but a diverse group of health care professionals who now comprise the Faculty of Medicine and Health. You will all enter into a health care system and environment that is very different, not only from those of our predecessors in the latter half of the 19th century, but even from that into which I took some faltering steps only 28 years ago. In the 1880's and 90's, a UCC medical graduate was more likely to find himself (and it was exclusively 'him's') posted to the Northwest Frontier as a physician or surgeon in the Indian Army Medical Corps than as a family doctor in West Cork; in the 1970's and 80's our medical and, by now, dental graduates, still found that progress in many careers could only be ensured by prolonged stints abroad, whether in the UK, North America or Australia. Even then the likelihood of eventual return from abroad (ever guided by the ubiquitous Celtic homing gene!) was far from ensured, given the paucity of positions then available in a depleted and often demoralised hospital service. Today, you graduate from one of the wealthiest nations in the world, resplendent in diverse qualifications and with the world at your feet! Yet, to judge by the media our health service does not appear to have kept pace; I do hope that this discrepancy between the wealth of the nation, on the one hand, and the health of our medical services, on the other, does not deter you from contributing to the development and improvement of these very services. Were it not for the nurses, doctors and therapists who stuck it out during the very worst of the cut-backs in the 80's we would not even have the service that we so oft complain about today. There will be many hard choices ahead for all of you; career vs lifestyle, family vs work, academic vs clinical or administrative, but I would ask all of you to also consider the broader and less personal questions that will have to be addressed in the coming years with regard to the funding of our health services. Should all services be available to all? If not how would you prioritise? I am not going to give you any answers to these questions today; all I would ask of you is that wherever your career takes you that you continue to remain aware of these issues, continue to appreciate their complexity and strive to sustain an informed opinion. Be involved!
I would like to spend the rest of my time focusing on another area where some very interesting and, for UCC, important, decisions will have to be made in the very near future. I am referring to Medical Education. One of the benefits of the multidisciplinarity that we now enjoy in the Faculty is that of observing how the other professions go about their business. It has been especially revealing to me, as a fledgling Head of the Medical School, to witness the rapid development of the School of Nursing and Midwifery, the School of Therapies and most recently the School of Pharmacy. I envy these Schools, not only for the dynamism of their leadership and scope of their ambition but also for their...money! When I see the funding that, most appropriately, has been allocated, and ring-fenced, for the inauguration and development of these Schools I wonder whether we, in the Medical School, are still working of a funding formula introduced in the 1850's! One of the hazards of longevity is that it is assumed that as you have struggled along on fresh air for 150 years, another 150 should be a breeze! We simply are not at the races, in terms of funding of medical education in Ireland, when we compare ourselves, not only with fellow health care professionals in Ireland, but in comparison to colleagues in the UK, Europe and North America. At a time when the graduating medical student is expected to know more, understand more, do more and cope even better, our funding remains stagnant. Regulatory bodies (in our case the Medical Council, in particular, but not forgetting, given the geographic diversity of our student body, the US department of education the GMC, and others, as well) demand ever higher standards...more small group teaching, more skills and communication laboratories, more IT support. At the same time Hanly, the Oireachtas report, and other reports, tell us that we need more highly skilled doctors capable of guiding the health service into the 22nd century. All the while our capitation, from the Dept of Education, remains static and way behind that of other Health care Professionals! We must, at this time, thank our fee-paying non-EU students; we thank them bringing their culture and experiences to our School and also for the funding that has allowed us to make developments at the school that would, otherwise, have been impossible. What a strange an anomalous situation that we find ourselves in, reliant, as we are, on fee-paying students to fund a School in a public University that offers free tuition to its native students!
Fortunately, notice has been taken of these dilemmas in medical education, in Ireland, and a task force, (the solution to all of the problems that a tribunal cannot solve) will shortly report. We expect that a substantial increase in EU places will be recommended and that a new funding formula will be put in place that we (perhaps naively) expect will put our funding on a solid footing. This has given us, and the other existing medical schools in Ireland, an impetus to look to the future and to consider what kind of medical school they want to be, assuming adequate funding!!! Here, at UCC, we have spent the past several months deliberating on this issue, mindful, as we did so, of the needs of our nation and its people, changes in the practice of medicine and of developments in medical science, ever referring to the expectations of regulators and external reviewers and aware of best practice throughout the world. Our deliberations are encapsulated in our recently released Strategic Plan.

What is our vision?
To provide doctors of the future with a world class, student-centered education, based on current knowledge, informed by research and with an awareness of societal needs.

As`any of you who have been involved in these exercises will know, this statement required considerable thought and input. Several phrase in this 'vision thing' deserve repeating:
'doctors of the future' world clas s'student-centered'.. current knowledge'. informed by research'..awareness of societal needs'
What are our specific objectives?
Over the next ten years, we will:
1. Position UCC Medical School to play the central role in providing appropriately trained doctors in Ireland, and especially in the Munster region
2. Optimise the content and delivery of the curriculum and teaching environment
3. Provide a high quality training programme for non EU students
4. Foster a culture of critical thinking and research throughout the Medical School
5. Restructure the administration function of the Medical School
6. Develop community-based teaching and education
7. Spearhead a rural health education and research initiative
8. Improve the teaching environment in all hospitals in the region
9. Establish a major medical education campus in the Limerick region
10. Provide opportunities for high quality post-graduate training and research; an important goal for the entire University in all its disciplines.
We envision that this Medical School will accept up to 200 students per year, of which approximately 50 will be graduate or mature entry students (thereby representing a dramatic increase in the number of these places), 30 to 40 will be from non-EU countries and specific places will be reserved for access students. However, the majority, approx 120, of all students will continue to be direct-entry school leavers. We believe that all should continue to take a 5-year programme but that this should represent a fully integrated programme of basic, clinical and behavioural science with early patient contact, considerable emphasis on small group, interactive learning and ample opportunities for individual student initiative and academic exploration.
It has become popular, in some circles, to downplay the importance of basic science in medical education and to suggest that the input from Physiology, Biochemistry, Anatomy and Pharmacology can be minimized. I want to stress my complete antipathy to this idea! Would you like to be treated by a doctor who does not know where the heart is or how it works? Anatomy and Physiology are at the very core of medicine; a failure to grasp these fundamentals is equivalent to having a panel-beater repair your car engine! In an age when molecular biology has impinged on every aspect of our lives and the variety and complexity of the drugs that we use increases exponentially, the abandonment of these disciplines in a medical course is madness. To suggest that these subjects are irrelevant to general practice or general practitioners, I find offensive to the profession of general practice. As far as I am concerned, every medical school must have robust departments of Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry and Pharmacology who contribute actively to the entire course from start to finish. I feel equally strongly about the importance of the proximity of the Medical School to an atmosphere of research and inquiry. Research is essential; students are eager to be exposed to and to be contact with scientists and clinicians who are at the forefront of their areas. Here UCC has made tremendous progress and is now one of the leading Universities in Ireland in biomedical research. This excitement does rub off on our students; let us hope that it encourages our best and brightest to pursue the questions that are so important for the future of all of our health.
Here, in Munster, we are blessed with a broad range of clinical opportunities which we must avail of if we are to provide the optimal education to our students. In partnership with the Health Service, we must develop these opportunities, be they in our hospitals or in the community; this means investment in physical plant, infrastructure and personnel, at each site, commensurate with student numbers, at a given site. The OECD suggests that a modern medical school should enroll at least 200 students per year to maintain critical mass; to accommodate these numbers, without overburdening our clinical facilities in Cork, and to provide the optimal clinical environment, we must enhance our presence at other sites in the region. Given its size, the broad range of its clinical specialties and health care personnel, Limerick will play a major role in our development plans. Long important teaching hospitals for UCC, the Limerick, now Mid-Western, Regional hospitals represent the ideal location for the development of a second major clinical campus for the UCC medical school. We also envisage developments in Tralee, Clonmel, Bantry, Mallow and other sites in Munster....to truly become a medical school for Munster. Indeed, all of these sites must be resourced to act as true teaching and learning centres linked with UCC, and each other, through an IT network.
We also recognise the central role of primary and community health care in our health system and the relative paucity of involvement of these sectors, to date, in the undergraduate curriculum. We envisage major developments in this area with the initiation of academic primary health care centres throughout the region and in both urban and rural settings. Recognising the crisis which is emerging in health care provision in some rural areas in this region, we are particularly keen to spearhead a rural health care initiative. This programme would not only ensure the exposure of our students to health care in a rural setting but would foster an awareness of health issues in rural communities, promote research thereon and act as a focus for the promulgation of the highest standards of interdisciplinary health care delivery. This could represent a unique contribution of UCC to our own community.
All of these goals and ambitions require funding; I hope that our leaders, be they political or academic understand the needs of our people and our professions; medicine is an academic discipline, based on science but rooted in patient care. The future development of medical education in Ireland must be based, in the first instance, on the adequate funding of those existing schools who have managed, for so long, to produce graduates who are respected and admired throughout the world and who have accomplished so much, yet have been chronically starved of funding and resources. This is their, and UCC's, opportunity to shed, once and for all, the burden of impoverishment, to realize their ambitions and to show the people of Ireland and the world what we really can do! This opportunity must not be squandered.
This is a time not to play safe but to be bold. Again, my congratulations to all of you and thank you for your attention.

Conferring Address by Professor Pádraig Ó Riain

2004 has been a bountiful year in my field of study in terms of its anniversaries. We began with the 1300 anniversary of the death of Adomnán abbot of Iona in 704, followed on with the centenary of the launch of the first learned journal of Irish studies, Ériu, in 1904, and completed our celebrations with the centenary of the publication, again in 1904, of Dinneen?s Foclóir Gaeilge agus Béarla, Dinneen's Irish-English Dictionary. For all that he achieved as abbot and author, few of you will have heard before today of Adomnán of Iona; yet in medieval times his writings on the Life of Colum Cille and, especially on the Holy Places of Palestine, which, ironically, he knew only from hearsay, were read and copied all over Europe. Even fewer of you will ever have dipped into a volume of the learned journal Ériu, but the names of its founder Kuno Meyer, and of one of one of its very first contributors, Osborn Bergin, should be known to those among you who are citizens of Cork. Kuno Meyer has the distinction of being perhaps the only freeman of this great city of Cork, to have his name expunged from the roll of freemen within three years of his election. Osborn Bergin, who lived on College Road, and started his professional career in UCC (then Queen?s College), before going on to become a great scholar of Irish, also wrote verse in the Irish language, and one of his songs, called Maidin i mBéarra and sung to the air of Danny Boy, is still often heard. (Don't worry, I'm not going to try to sing it).
But I think that I can safely say that nearly all of you here today 'graduates, parents, and members of staff' will have heard of Dinneen's Dictionary. Indeed, many of you will have a copy of this volume on a book shelf at home. But how many of you will be aware of the incongruity of it all? If you check the spelling of the dictionary, you'll find that it is hopelessly out of date, and the same applies to its typeface, the Cló Gaelach, which has not been used in the schools since the late 1940s. Yet this book has sold more copies than any other book relating to the Irish language in existence. What's more, it continues to sell more copies annually than any other Irish book.
This may say something about the Irish; but I prefer to think that it says a good deal more about the dictionary, which can be as entertaining as it is enlightening. Seán Ó Riada valued it highly as bedtime reading, and Myles na Goppaleen used to ridicule regularly the meanings of words provided by Dinneen, whom he called the comic lexicographer. Clearly, there is much more to this work than a book dealing in alphabetical order with the words of a language; it is as much about the author as it is about the Irish language, and this goes some way towards explaining not only the historic and continuing attraction of the work, but also the reputation enjoyed by Dinneen himself in life and in death. Do you know of any other 20th-century Irish writer who was asked to throw in the ball at an All-Ireland final. And how many Irish writers, besides Dinneen, received a State funeral? So well known was he that, to mark his centenary, the National Library of Ireland has agreed to place a commemorative plaque on the desk that he used (and that no one else dared to sit at) during the many years that he worked on the dictionary. No other user of the National Library has been honoured in this way.
You may well ask what bearing has all of this on the honour, hard-earned and well-deserved, conferred on each of you graduates here today? Simply this: Dinneen was also a University graduate, of the Catholic University, which later merged with the Queen's Colleges to give the National University. However, his subjects did not include Irish; he graduated in Mathematics and English, and could count the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins among his teachers. He went on to teach these two subjects, and displayed not the slightest interest in Irish until much later, when he discovered, quite by accident, that Irish manuscripts had survived, containing, among a great deal of other material, copies of songs by Kerry poets that he had heard his mother sing. From there he went on to edit several volumes of Irish texts, prose and verse, most of them today still standard editions, and began the great enterprise of his dictionary, perhaps the most influential work in the whole history of modern Irish.
The kind of accident that generates career change is no less common today than it was in Dinneen's time. Whatever the subject of your degree, you need to be prepared for change, for as Dinneen's case shows, together with hundreds of others that might be called to mind, a University degree is a beginning only, to be developed, built upon, and used to bring about personal success, material and intellectual. And who knows, though it's a thought that none of you would wish to dwell upon at this stage of your young lives, there may be talk some day of a commemorative plaque in the Boole Library for one or other of you.

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