THE patients of Limerick and the wider region are already reaping the benefits of the Graduate Medical School (GEMS) at UL, the university’s president Don Barry has said.
Speaking at the official opening of the €15m building on Monday, Prof Barry said UL had recruited some of the most eminent professionals in their fields who were training the doctors of the future in Limerick.
“But they are also working as consultants at the various hospitals and medical facilities in the region, helping to deliver world-class medical care to patients in this region on a daily basis,” Prof Barry said.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, who officially opened the building, said UL had again broken new ground in Ireland in being the first graduate medical school in the country.
Head of GEMS, Prof Mike Larvin noted that it was the Fottrell Report of 2006 that diagnosed problems with how Ireland educated its doctors - the curriculum was in need of modernisation and access to medical schools needed to be improved.
Part of the cure was the establishment of a major graduate entry medical school, and it was UL that beat off competition from established medical schools in Cork, Galway and Dublin to get it going.
Prof Barry said the result was a venture that “typifies in many ways the UL spirit”.
“We identified a strategic national need. We recruited the brightest and the best to find the right solution in collaboration with best practice partners from around the world. We proposed innovative solutions to government and we competed fairly and at times fiercely with our peers to win state support. Then when we were approved to create the largest graduate entry medical programme in the country, we moved swiftly to execute our plans and deliver benefits to the communities we serve. This is the UL way and this is how we will continue to achieve our mission of being pioneering and connected,” Prof Barry said.
And having people begin their medical education later in life, rather than straight from secondary school, was to be welcomed, Minister Noonan said.
“It is great that the breakthrough was made, and made here in Limerick, where graduates who have some experience of other bodies of knowledge and also some experience of the world, are coming in now and studying medicine. I think when one is 22, 23, 24, choices that one makes are worth more than when coming straight from Leaving Cert.
“People who are a bit older and with experience of life know how to deal with people and develop a different type of bedside manner.”
It was the minister’s hope that initiatives like GEMS would reduce the “terrible waste” of so many doctors leaving the profession young - as many as 30% of graduates having left by their mid-30s.
He said government was also satisfied with the number of GEMS graduates going into general practice as much treatment which until now has been carried out in a hospital can in future by done in a GP’s clinic.