Pushing to Help Irish Hospitals

UCD alumna Emmy Coffey Nguyen is the founder of The Push Up Challenge, a crowdfunding campaign that has already raised over €3,000 towards helping Irish hospitals combat coronavirus. We spoke with Emmy around the campaign, and her time at UCD.

What inspired you to start this challenge?

The reason I started this campaign was because I realised the severity of the situation, the effects it would have on our health system and the citizens of Ireland. While I am not a doctor, nurse or healthcare worker (I work for Salesforce as an Account Executive) I knew what it could mean and I had to do something. During my time in UNICEF, I was aware of the impacts and lasting effects of the ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone having conducted a brief humanitarian mission there.

I got to work after consulting with my uncle who is in the National Ambulance Service and a friend who had just begun ICU training, which completely solidified the decision to act. I stayed up to 6.00 am on Paddy’s Day devising what would become the Push Up Challenge. As an athlete, I also thought the challenge was a good way to promote people getting active while self-isolating.

Do you have a particular link to the hospitals you have chosen to fundraise for?

I attended the Mater Hospital for treatment after a back injury several years ago. My mother was diagnosed with Lymes disease and seeks regular treatment there. Otherwise I have no other connection. I was put in touch with CEO Michael Sheridan of Mercy Hospital Foundation by journalist Niamh Griffin after she learnt about the initiative. Thanks to Niamh I was able to gain more insight from both Mercy Hospital Cork and the Mater who work closely together which is the reason for partnering with both Hospitals and their ICUs.


What other media attention have you received in relation to this?

I have been extremely fortunate that iRadio, Spin1038 and 2FM have been willing to feature the campaign and give me an opportunity to share the good it will do for the Mater and Mercy Hospital Cork which are the largest ICUs east and west of the country.

Graham and Nathan of Fully Charged on Spin1038 were even kind enough to do the push-up challenge themselves. All I have to do now is spam the amazing Caradh O’Donovan from iRadio and Jen Zamparelli of 2FM. I’m trying my hardest at the moment to gain support from well recognised individuals in the media but it’s difficult while I work full-time. The fundraising team in Mercy Hospital have been extremely supportive working alongside me to try to gain more support and exposure for the campaign even after their own work hours.

“We need to look after them so they can look after us”

What do you hope the money goes towards – protective gear etc?

The campaign started as a general fundraiser for all ICUs specifically for the purchase of ventilators but after speaking with Michael Sheridan of Mercy Hospital Foundation I quickly recognised that a partnership with both hospitals was the best way to make an impact. Not only that but Michael provided me with a unique perspective on the situation within the hospitals. While ventilators are pivotal in combating COVID19 and the treatment of patients, the mental health of healthcare workers is paramount to sustain the response of severe-critical patients into ICUs.

The intensity at which healthcare workers will be working in addition to existing work prior to the pandemic makes for a very stressful environment, nevermind the lack of resources on top of that. We can’t afford to underperform against a virus like this, that’s why the funds raised in this campaign will go towards the mental health services to support healthcare workers and the necessary equipment needed in the ICUs. We need to look after them so they can look after us.

“UCD has played a major part in my personal and professional growth”

What are your memories of UCD?

UCD was a great place to go to college. I studied Politics, International Relations and Philosophy. It was a dream come true in many ways. I had always wanted to study these subjects from an early age – surprisingly! I met some fantastic people there, some of which I am still in contact with today. I was also part of the UCD Athletics Club where I also started up a campaign called Save Our Track with fellow athletes. There were other aspects to college life that I did find challenging however. I lost a friend in my second year which was a deep shock and affected my studies. Battling depression for the duration of college was also a challenge. While I have never talked about this beyond friends/family members I think it’s important to talk about it. I owe my life to a UCD counsellor called Donal Kiernan who helped me through a chronic depression. Thanks to UCD offering mental health services, I was able to overcome this and possibly why I find it even more important to support our Healthcare workers now! UCD has played a major part in my personal and professional growth.

How much are you hoping to raise?

We’ve raised over €2,500 amongst my very modest network and the following online but hope to raise much much more especially after the recent exposure on radio! Both hospitals will require €100K to sustain mental health services and equipment. If I can contribute in any way to this goal with fellow supporters we’ll be happy campers and feel like we’ve done something (from our living rooms) to help during this crisis.

For more information on how you can get active at home while raising vital funds for the Mater & Mercy Hospital ICUs and healthcare workers fighting against COVID19 visit


GoFundMe: www.gofundme.com/paddypushupchallenge

Facebook: @thepushupchallengeIRE
Instagram: @emmypingpong
Twitter: @EmmyCoffeyN


Feeding Ireland’s Healthcare Heroes

When UCD alumnus Cian O’Flaherty set up the ‘Feed the Heroes’ GoFundMe page on 15 March, he was hoping to raise about €1,000 to provide food for some of the healthcare heroes working flat out in hospitals and on the frontline of COVID-19 testing.

However, the response to Cian’s “very small, bright idea” has far exceeded his expectations, as the Irish public responded with immense generosity. Within two weeks, more than €430,000 has already been donated.

The money is being used to pay restaurants and kitchens to prepare and deliver meals to hospital and emergency workers, who are putting in long hours in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. Over 10,000 meals have already been delivered to grateful healthcare staff.

“It’s brilliant. We are completely overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone,” said Dr Claire Tynan at St Columcille’s Hospital.

Harnessing the Power of 3D Printing Against the Spread of Coronavirus

With the cancellation of most sporting events in the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, there has been a drop in the demand for protective gumshields. For the company Impact Gumshields – co-founded by James Murphy and UCD alumnus and former Leinster rugby player Gary Brown – this might have seen their 3D printing technology lying idle for a while. Instead, the company was keen to do whatever they could to support local communities and they quickly sought an alternative use for the printers. They are now producing hands-free door handles for distribution to GP surgeries, pharmacies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers using a design released free of charge by Belgian company Materialise.

UCD and UCC Offer Free Training for Nurses on the Frontline of COVID-19

UCD is responding rapidly to the evolving demands placed on our society and our healthcare system as the coronavirus pandemic continues to run its course. Identifying the urgent need for more specialist nurses to provide critical care to patients infected with COVID-19 as well as other patients who require intensive care, both UCD and UCC are offering an online accelerated programme free of charge to upskill nurses.

Both universities are offering easy and rapid access to the National Foundation Module in Critical Care Nursing. The training will equip nurses with high-level skills in caring for critically ill patients and working effectively with other healthcare professionals in intensive care settings.

UCD Tech Start-up Designs 3D Printable Protective Visors

The Irish tech company CALT Dynamics, founded by UCD research engineers Ross Lawless, Colin Keogh and Irene Villafane, has developed a prototype protective visor that can be produced rapidly using 3D printing.

The company has already donated prototypes of the visors to a Dublin hospital for testing and validation. Once the design is approved and finalised they will ramp up production to address the global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The company is sharing its design with US company Stanley Black and Decker, which has huge production capacity, and is also providing assistance to the Spanish government.

“When we make the designs available, hopefully people with 3D printers in different regions can help out wherever they are needed,” said Ross Lawless, CEO of CALT Dynamics. “It’s good to be able to help. If there was ever a time to help this is it. It’s really critical.”

UCD Students Mobilised for COVID-19 Testing

Dr Nicola Fletcher, Ad Astra Fellow in UCD School of Veterinary Medicine, is training UCD students to handle and process swab samples in preparation for a significant upscaling of COVID-19 testing over the coming weeks.

The students will be deployed to help with testing in the laboratory of veterinary diagnostics company Enfer Group in Co. Kildare, which has been repurposed as a COVID-19 test centre. Once fully operational, the lab will have the capacity to test at least 10,000 samples every day.

Irish Tech Company Offers New Platform to Monitor Social Distancing

In response to the coronavirus pandemic Irish-based technology company Taoglas – co-founded by UCD alumni Dermot O’Shea and Ronan Quinlan – is launching the Crowd Insights platform to help manage crowd sizes and ensure social distancing. The platform works with existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to monitor numbers and flows of people in public areas, and triggers an alarm if intervention is required.

Taoglas is already providing the platform free of charge to one Irish hospital.

“We believe this will be vital in the days and months to come to allow people to move around safely without fear and to get the economy moving again.” Ronan Quinlan, co-founder and co-CEO of Taoglas

Responding to Crisis With Creativity at MoLI

Literature, poetry and our own creativity can provide great solace and respite in these anxious times of self-isolation and social distancing. Although our cultural institutions have closed their doors to the public for the sake of the common good, they are embracing digital technologies to continue to engage and inspire us.

Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) – a creative alliance between the National Library of Ireland and UCD, housed in the historic Newman House on St Stephen’s Green – is responding to the current challenging circumstances with positivity and fun, offering Bright Sparks Creative Bursts via their website and social media. Through videos and downloadable worksheets, award-winning children’s book writer and creative writing teacher Sarah Webb is providing daily inspiration in the form of story prompts and word games. With schools closed and children isolated from their friends, this is a brilliant resource to engage young (and not so young!) minds, spark creativity and feed the imagination.


Examining Coronavirus Through the Lens of History

As our scientists, engineers and healthcare professionals step up to meet the immense challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we remember that the humanities too continue to be important and relevant at this time. Examining our society and culture through the lens of history assures us of the resilience of the human spirit. Every generation before us has prevailed against the trials and tribulations of the day.

In a recent article in The Irish Times Diarmaid Ferriter, Professor of Modern Irish History at UCD, examines how Ireland has handled epidemics throughout history. He tells us: “Lessons from Irish history underline the vital importance of leadership, decisiveness, clarity of communication and effective co-ordination when dealing with public health crises, along with co-operation from the public.”

Lyons Farm Goes Virtual to Support Leaving Cert. Students

Each year Agri Aware organises a series of Farm Walk and Talk events at Teagasc Colleges and Research Farms around the country to give Leaving Cert. Agricultural Science students valuable exposure to the reality of life on a working farm. Unfortunately, this year’s planned event at UCD Lyons Farm was cancelled due to the threat of COVID-19, but staff from UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science responded quickly to ensure students didn’t entirely miss out on the experience. They created a virtual farm tour through a series of videos covering a broad range of topics, from grassland science to sustainable sheep production.