Ahead of Father’s Day on June 19, Vicki Notaro catches up with fathers, and the sons who have taken the same career path.
Alan Kenna, 30, has followed in his father footsteps and become a paramedic just like his dad Laurence, 61.
Alan: “After secondary school, I was passionate about music and had aspirations of working in that industry. I completed my BA in Music Management in the UK and when I returned to Ireland I bounced around a few jobs.
“It wasn’t until my mother suggested a career in the ambulance service that I really took an interest.
“I was always aware and very proud of my father’s role within the ambulance service, but he and Mum knew my passion for music and supported my interests.
“When I made the decision to begin the application process, the more I read and studied the occupation, the more I wanted to start. I knew a 9-5 job was never for me, I joined HSE National Ambulance Service in 2009 and qualified as a paramedic in 2011.
“This year I successfully completed my Advanced Paramedic qualification.
“What always appeals to me is the not knowing how my day is going to pan out — who I’ll meet, treat and what I’ll learn.
“Dad and I have met up at a few scenes over the years but we have never crewed together. My father’s position as Educational and Competency Assurance officer provides him with a rapid-response vehicle and he makes himself available to calls nearly 24hrs a day.
“You never know when and where you might bump into him when you are on a shift.
“There are many unwritten rules within our profession but one is that you don’t take the job home with you.
“Although my father never discussed the job at home, as I became older I understood what an important and influential part he held in the development of the ambulance service in Ireland.
“Knowing that your parent is part of that system certainly drives you to want to be part of it, even if you don’t realise straight away.”
Laurence: “I joined the Ambulance Service on St Patrick’s Day 1980. I had served my time in Guinness as an apprentice sheet-metal worker and during this programme I completed a first-aid course.
“I then joined a voluntary group call the Order of Malta, which had a huge impact on my life. I spent the next 10 years volunteering there and this gave me a professional direction.
“I also met Carol, my wife of 32 years, there while teaching her first aid.
“I started my career as an ambulance attendant in Naas Ambulance in 1980, and went into training in 1993.
“I then went back into the operational arena and have responsibility for the education and competency of around 230 emergency medical technicians, paramedics and advanced paramedics.
“Alan would not have known much about my work as he was growing up. The type of work that we do, I never really discussed it at home.
“Not for a second did I think Alan would join the ambulance service. From an early age he wanted to be a musician and it was on the stage that he excelled.
“But when he decided to join us, we were naturally delighted.
“You certainly hear of a lot of doctors who have followed their parents into medicine and we do have a couple of father/son relationships in the Ambulance Service.
“I think a lot of that relates to genetics and the immersive environment the children are reared in. They do pick up our traits and values along the way — but hopefully only the good ones.”
Tom Higgins, 69, has been practising general medicine for over 40 years. His son, Gareth Higgins, 43, is a consultant ophthalmic surgeon.
Tom: “I was always fascinated with medicine — always — although somewhat squeamish at times as a result of a fractured femur at the age of eight. I was hospitalised for 81 days, so perhaps became a bit institutionalised and wanted more.
“I studied in UCD from 1964 to 1970. When I qualified, general practice offered a variety that was missing in a speciality. After a widespread sweep of postgraduate jobs in various departments, I was ready for work as a GP at 31 years of age — 38 years later I still work as a GP in Dungarvan, Co Waterford.
“I feel the fact that I was a GP and that my wife Anne was a secondary school teacher influenced our children, as they all went into the caring professions. But I think Gareth would agree that I never pushed the children towards any profession. I encouraged them to follow their aspirations and dreams, and all five children have a great work ethic.
“Gareth and I are very close. We meet a few times a week and are in touch nearly every day. It’s not all medicine, even though I refer a lot of patients to him. We have great fun together. I’m very proud of him and what he’s achieved so far. The best is yet it to come, as he’s in his prime.
“I’m officially retiring this month on my 70th birthday — the same day as I got married and qualified as a doctor.”
Gareth: “I don’t know if medicine was in my blood exactly, as I’m the only one of my siblings that decided to become a doctor, and my father was also the only one in his family to study medicine.
“Dad always worked hard and did very long hours, though he appeared to love his work and had a lot of empathy and compassion for his patients. I think that influenced all of my family in our career choices.
“I studied medicine in UCC, graduating in 1998.
“I did a period of postgraduate research in Cork, before training as an ophthalmic surgeon.
“I got in to that specialty because I spent a summer working in a small rural hospital in Litembo in Tanzania and saw the difference the surgeon there made to patients’ lives, restoring vision.
“Dad and I have always been close. I think the fact that we both work as doctors, albeit in different fields, does give us a certain empathy and understanding of the pressures (and rewards) that come with the job. I think Dad is happy as long as we are happy.
“He certainly never openly encouraged any of us to study medicine, but rather to make our own minds up about career choices.”
Karl Henry, 34, is a successful and well-known personal trainer and TV personality, as is his father, 64-year-old Pat Henry
Karl: “I grew up hanging around in the gym with my dad, before school and after school, so I guessed I was steeped in that environment. But it wasn’t until I started personal training while in college that I realised I really loved it I’ve always really looked up to my dad, because he was and still is a leader in his field.
“He is an incredibly hard worker, something that has been passed on to me. We are in early, work hard and get results.
“I started off training clients in their homes and it became so busy I needed a base. Linking up with the gym was a perfect way to come off the road, build my own business and also help build up the gym some more too. It’s a very passionate job, you have to love it or you’re in the wrong profession. It’s amazing seeing what a difference you can make to someone’s life.”
Pat: “I opened my gym on Fitzwilliam Square in Dublin in 1986, when I’d just come back from Hollywood where I was training the stars. We just celebrated 30 years in business last month.
“I didn’t think Karl would follow in my footsteps at all. We were making a fitness video in Inchydoney when he was a teenager, and he was so shy he didn’t want to be on camera.
“He was always sporty and athletic and played rugby in school, but I didn’t think he’d want to be a trainer.
“Then he started training when he was in college, and just really loved it. He loves working with people, and it gave him great confidence. He has a degree in sports science and business from UCD, and he’s a very driven and focused person.
“Karl is incredibly professional and invested in his clients. I’m so proud of him; his mother Marie and I raised him to have the utmost courtesy and respect for people, he’s so mannerly and excellent at what he does.
“I see a very bright future for him. I think he’ll go beyond what I’ve achieved and take his own career to the next level.
“As well as training clients, writing and appearing on radio and TV, I think he’d be perfect for the lecture circuit.”
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