AFTER just six years working in the medical field in New York, Dr Niamh Long, from Skibbereen, has been recognised as one of 50 influential Irish Americans.
Each year, the Irish America magazine compiles a list of Irish-American and Irish-born people who they deem leaders in a field relating to healthcare and life sciences.
When Dr Long was told she had been selected as one of 2019’s 50 honourees, she says she was shocked and humbled.
“It is a massive honour to be recognised for my contribution to health care in the U.S,” she said. “The calibre of people on the list this year and previous years is incredible.
“There have been a number of really influential Irish people recognised since the award started so it is really humbling to be considered in the category.”
Dr Long first studied medicine in UCC. She says she knew early on that she wanted to be a doctor.
“I did a week of work experience in CUH in fourth year where I shadowed the nurses. It sounds funny but I liked the atmosphere of the hospital. I liked the buzz.
“After UCC, I went to Australia for a year and then came back to Dublin and did a year in Cappagh National Orthopedic Hospital doing Musculoskeletal Intervention.
“There can be this idea in medicine that you become a GP or you specialise, when becoming a GP is its own speciality.
“But with becoming a GP there is a somewhat straightforward route whereas with other areas, such as surgery or cardiology, it is not as straightforward.
“Once you finish training, you are qualified but most people go away afterwards and do a fellowship. Fellowships make you more attractive as a proposition for some of the bigger academic teaching centres.”
Dr Long set her sights on a fellowship in in Musculoskeletal Imaging at NYU Langone Medical Centre in New York. After not hearing back about an interview date, she asked a mentor to inquire on her behalf.
“When my tutor in Dublin emailed a friend in New York about the fellowship, he was told the interviews were almost over and there was only one spot left. They had received my application but it had been incomplete so it was cast aside.”
Determined to make the last day of interviews, Dr Long got a flight to New York that evening.
“My tutor told them I was on the way and put my name forward. Only for him I wouldn’t have been considered.
“I got to New York about midnight local time and had my interview at 7am the next morning.
“They were shocked. They didn’t know I existed until the day before! I think, with Americans, they just want to know that you really want to be there so in a way I was a poster child for the position!
“I was delighted and really grateful when I was offered a spot.”
Fast forward six years and Dr Long completed another fellowship, in Body Oncologic Imaging and PET/CT at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in Manhattan, the number two hospital for cancer care in the U.S, and is now an attendee (consultant) there.
Dr Long lives in the Upper East Side of New York and has a full life. “I am either up at 5.45 or 7am depending on the day. On my long days I might not finish until 9pm.
“The pace of life in New York is very fast, maybe too fast sometimes, but I think it intrinsically suits me.
“There is always something going on and I try to get to an event or GAA training during the week. ”
Since moving to New York, the West Cork also helped form Manhattan Gaels ladies’ football team and currently sits on the board of the Irish Network NYC (http://irishnetwork-nyc.com/)
“The Irish Network is a great network for people who are moving over. A lot of Irish come to New York on the grad visa and I would absolutely recommend looking them up.
“I would say to anyone coming out is to come to the events and also to look up other networking events that are relevant to your area.
“New York can be a little daunting, particularly if you are coming just out of college.” Dr Long has this advice for Irish wanting to succeed in the Big Apple: “Irish people’s mentality tends to be a little self-deprecating and we are not inclined to champion ourselves as much as New Yorkers and other Americans, and, really, they are your competition.
“So it’s good to be a bit bold. Go after what you want and put yourself forward. That’s what it’s all about in New York.
“Even after six years here, I still struggle with it at times! I think it’s in our nature to be a little more humble but it is something to embrace if you want to succeed in New York. If you do, the potential for success is quite significant.”
Is New York home now?
“There is a subset of Irish people who move here and love it and they never want to leave. But for the majority, I would say, home is never that far away in your mind.
“Your parents are getting older, you are missing family events, you are always kind of thinking of it. ‘I didn’t think I would be here six years’ but, without realising it, New York has become home.
“In six years you put down roots and you build relationships and friendships.
“In terms of what I miss, I miss West Cork. I miss the peace and the calm there! I miss my family and the food.
“People talk about New York having good food but it’s so much fresher at home!”