The Cobh native, who won a gold medal in the 5,000m at the 1995 World Athletics Championships, and silver at the 2000 Olympic Games, said she was delighted to receive the honour in recognition of her sporting achievements.
“It makes you think, you ask yourself questions — I understand the work and effort people put in to become a doctor so I realise that I have been honoured for work I have put in over the years.”
Ms O’Sullivan said while she still competes, it is on a scaled down level.
“Standing on the starting line I probably get too nervous because I know I am not as prepared and ready to do what I want to do, so now I tend to compete on a level I know I can.”
The athlete said she was busy “keeping Aer Lingus in business” as she has been over and back to Ireland for events in past few months.
“There is always something going on. It’s great to be able to go over and back. My children go to school in London and we are based there at the moment.”
Ms O’Sullivan, who retired from competitive athletics in 2007, said she loved the work she did with Little Athletics.
“It’s great. We get some kids together and encourage them, and then there are also things like the Cork city marathon which took over the city last Monday. To be able to come and take part in these things is fantastic.
“The support I get and the inspiration I hopefully give to people makes me feel good and make me really enjoy it.”
Another Cork icon was also bestowed with the traditional honorary doctorate.
Máirín Quill, who devoted her life to politics in Cork, said: “It’s very significant day as it is the day I officially resigned from the register of practicing politicians.”
Ms Quill, who was among the founding member of the PDs, said it was a strange day to be confronted with a ballot paper that for first time in 30 years did not have her name on it.
“It is a day of mixed emotions, but the excitement of being here and the delight in getting this honour compensates the fact that I am retiring from public life.”
The Kerry native said there was poetic justice about it and that she saw the conferring as an acknowledge of her public service.