Inspired by her retired astronaut uncle, Kelly Hadfield has counted down her own giant career leap into the world of medicine.
The 30-year-old Canadian was one of 166 students who graduated from the University of Limerick Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS) today.
Her uncle, Chris Hadfield, was the first Canadian to walk in space having flown two Space Shuttle missions and served as a commander of the International Space Station.
“UL was a life-changing experience,” remarked Ms Hadfield, who was supported by her parents Robin and David and partner Tadgh.
Her uncle’s historic journey into celestial realms inspired her because it “normalised extraordinary accomplishments”.
“Having somebody like Uncle Chris just be Uncle Chris, it really has reinforced the mind-set that you and anybody really can do anything they want to do as long as you are stubborn enough and determined enough to do it, to do the work and make that goal happen,” she said.
“It has been very influential on my own thinking, like for example the fact that I was able to come here and do medicine, that was all because of watching him, growing up with him, and I lived with him for a few years in Toronto.”
“Yes, so Uncle Chris has been a very big supporter of my life,” Hadfield added.
“From a young age I always felt a really instinctive drive to always help people and I always wanted to be a doctor, but the influence of Chris came in to ‘don’t just be a doctor if you want to make any change in the world, you have to reach big, really plan and work for any scenario and honestly you can make anything happen,” she added.
“I am really proud of the influence he has had on my life in my capacity to create change because that’s what I think physicians should do, is to create change to improve the health and well-being of their communities”.
The Hadfield’s have a holiday home in the wilds of West Cork, where Kelly and Tadgh plan to do some well-deserved relaxing and sightseeing over the summer.
Established in 2007, GEMS has conferred 931 medical students and 103 paramedics.
The class of 2019 includes graduates in surgery and paramedic studies.
GEMS is open to graduates from any discipline, employing practical and interactive approaches to learning in what is the country’s largest graduate entry programme for medicine.
Others graduating among the serene surrounds of the vast green UL campus included midwifery, guidance counselling, sports psychology and sports performance.
UL president Dr Des Fitzgerald told the gathering: “University life can be challenging, but character building.
"Remember your first steps through the gates and the person you were. Remember the journey and look at where you are now today.
"These are the experiences you can take with you to face any challenge set before you.”
UL boasts a 100,000 strong alumni including support chapters in London, New York, Boston, California, Europe and East Asia.