MEDICAL student Nick Ireland has swapped angle grinders for a stethoscope.
His road to study medicine was far from traditional.
Nick, who grew up west of Kempsey, never gave up on his childhood dream of becoming a doctor.
He left school at the end of Year 11 and moved to Queensland with about $1000 and a bag of clothes.
Nick subsequently worked in the metal fabrication and welding fields where angle grinders and welding equipment were tools of the trade.
About 20 jobs over the years took Nick as far as North Queensland and north western Western Australia.
The desire to be a doctor never went away.
Nick didn’t let the lack of a HSC hold him back.
He took some time off and completed the University of Newcastle’s tertiary preparation program, Open Foundation, as a stepping stone to university.
That led to acceptance into an occupational therapy degree at the University of Newcastle, which Nick approached as a pathway into medicine.
His first year occupational therapy academic record featured seven high distinctions in eight subjects.
From there, Nick earned a spot in the University of NSW medical degree in Port Macquarie.
When he received the email acceptance notification, Nick passed the mobile phone to his fiancee Xanthe Kerr who burst into tears.
“I just couldn’t believe it ,” he said about acceptance into the medicine program.
“Apart from always knowing I was an analytical thinker and having an interest in health and an aptitude for sciences, I know the line of work is suited to me because it will give me the best life I could hope for and allow me to help other people.”
Nick said he probably knew less about academia than his student cohort but he had real world experience.
He said it was very special to be part of the inaugural intake of first year UNSW medical students in Port Macquarie.
“I don’t think any of us or any of the staff will forget the first little group of 13 that came through,” Nick said.
They will complete the full medical degree in Port Macquarie.