Medical and healthcare
Given Maynooth does not have a medical school, one may not expect to see MU listed as the alma mater of Boston-based physician Dr. Bríd O’Connor (BSc, 1985).
Now a radiation oncologist at Boston’s prestigious Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School located at the heart of the world-renowned Longwood Medical Area, Dr O’Connor reflects on her circuitous route into medicine, which began even before her years in Maynooth.
She had applied to study medicine and got as far as an interview. “I was asked during the interview if I had any family members who were physicians. When I replied, ‘no,’ I was told ‘so you have no idea what it is like to be a doctor.’” She did not get into medicine at that time, but she wasn’t deterred.
Instead, she studied chemistry and biology at Maynooth, under the tutelage of Prof Charles Quinn and Prof Peter Whitaker. She spent a J1 summer working at the University of Maine and upon graduating headed to the Institute of Cancer Research. There, she earned a PhD in biochemical pharmacology, graduating from the University of London. It was through her drug development research on phase 1 clinical trial drugs that landed her a post-doc at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York.
In 1992 she received a green card through the Morrison visa programme, enabling her to apply to medical school in the US. Yet, she met another obstacle in that she had no formal education in the US. The Albert Einstein admissions office recommended a one-year, post-baccalaureate pre-med course, but she felt the cost was prohibitive. She again chanced her arm at applying to med school in Ireland—still without the family ties, but this time armed with a cv full of real-world experiences and that would be hard to ignore.
Her perseverance paid off and O’Connor was accepted at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, transferring to Boston University School of Medicine to complete her clinical years and graduating with an MD in 1998. She also didn’t hesitate to re-introduce herself to the senior professor who turned up his nose at her the first time around!
Today, Bríd is well settled in Boston, and finds her work as a radiation oncologist immensely rewarding.
She has embraced the cold winters and has become an avid skier and curler. However, she prefers summer sailing in her beloved town of Falmouth on Cape Cod.
She is a member of the Maynooth Alumni Advisory Board and a supporter of the Maynooth University Foundation. She also is set on helping current Maynooth students pursue their dreams—no matter how out-of-reach they may seem. The Bríd O’Connor Women in Science Scholarship supports a promising female student who may otherwise have financial difficulty making it through her four-year science degree.