Dr Ivanna Mc Mahon is a GP trainee, plays seven musical instruments, is an advocate for the Irish language and the current Miss Ireland. Ivanna is currently spreading her message about Dyslexia acceptance and building the self esteem of young people with Dyslexia throughout her visits to schools throughout Ireland.
- What was your background before you decided to be nominated for the Miss Ireland competition?
I am a doctor. I studied medicine in University College Cork, qualifying in 2020, and have now completed my first year as a GP trainee.
2. Why did you think it was important to be nominated for Miss Ireland?
Miss Ireland was always something I was interested in! I felt it was important that I put myself forward for it in 2022 as I did not want to have any regrets for not doing so in the future. I am incredibly grateful for the new opportunities and experiences that have come from doing so.
3. What are some of the myths about the competition and how are you dispelling the myths?
I think some people may not be aware of the extent of the work involved being part of Miss Ireland and Miss World. There are numerous different parts to the competition, e.g. sports, talent, modelling and public speaking.
There is also a huge focus on ‘Beauty with a purpose’ and charity work, with thousands of euros and important awareness being raised by the entrants of the competition for various charitable organisations around Ireland every year. In 2022 we raised over 50,000 euro for various charities during the Miss Ireland competition.
I am continuing to dispel the myths in my various volunteering projects and ambassadorships during my time as Miss Ireland.
I also travel around Ireland giving school talks to students in primary and secondary schools and 3rd level education about dyslexia, the importance of education and healthcare, CPR and the importance of learning, speaking and celebrating the Irish language. I have also tried to promote living a sustainable lifestyle when possible, as well as striving to do so myself.
- You’ve spoken a lot about how your Dyslexia has affected you. Can you tell us about how it affected you and some of the strategies you came up with that led to becoming a doctor?
Growing up with dyslexia definitely affected my self-esteem and confidence in school. I had an aversion to reading aloud in class and was often embarrassed of my messy writing or spelling mistakes. Once I was identified as dyslexic in 6th year and gained a better understanding of what it meant to be dyslexic I began to appreciate the benefits I gained as a dyslexic person and the ‘outside the box’ logic being dyslexic can give you. This began my journey of acceptance with my difficulties/difference in my language learning style.
5. What are you doing now to spread the message of acceptance for the condition?
I have carried out numerous school talks in primary, secondary and 3rd level education, in both English and Irish speaking schools on dyslexia, what it is, its prevalence, common misconceptions, it’s difficulties and benefits and tips of things I find helpful for my dyslexia. I have also discussed the importance of education in general. I am vocal about my dyslexia on social media and I am an ambassador with dyslexia Ireland which I am incredibly proud of. My hope is that my school talks on dyslexia will help to give children and young people (dyslexic and non-dyslexic) a better understanding and acceptance of dyslexia!
6. You’re an incredibly talented musician, playing 7 different instruments. Do you think your dyslexia made a positive impact on your musical abilities?
I absolutely believe that many dyslexic individuals can be very creative and have interests in artistic pursuits. I do believe my dyslexia has had a positive impact on many aspects of my life and abilities, including my musical abilities.
- You are also an advocate for the Irish language. Why do the language is so misunderstood by many and what do you think are some of the easy steps that could be done to improve the popularity of the language?
Absolutely! I attended an all Irish speaking secondary school and have a great appreciation and love for the Irish language. I think it’s so important to celebrate our national language and appreciate how lucky we are to have it and all the benefits that can be gained by speaking it. I think trying to introduce Irish, even just a few words a day, into your every day vocabulary is a great place to start. Seize every opportunity given to you to speak it! I think an emphasis on learning conversational Irish in school is very important to promote people using the language in everyday conversations. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to attend a gaelcolaiste and to have been immersed in the language for my secondary school years.
8. How did the pandemic affect you as a trainee doctor? It must have been incredibly stressful, do you have any tips for dealing with stress from this time?
The pandemic led to me qualifying and starting work as a doctor a little earlier than expected. I think it is important to highlight the importance of looking after yourself and your health, taking breaks and time for yourself, having a good sleep schedule, socialising with your friends and family, a healthy diet and exercising.
9. Do you intend returning to the medical field once your time is over as Miss Ireland?
Yes, I am still working in the medical field as Miss Ireland and will continue to do so once my time as Miss Ireland is over.
- You work closely with Dyslexia Ireland. In addition to that organisation, are there any other organisations in the Diversity and Inclusion field in Ireland that you are a big fan of?
Yes, as an ambassador for Dyslexia Ireland, I am lucky to work closely with them to fundraise and bring awareness and acceptance about dyslexia in Ireland. I would love to highlight Dyslexia Ireland’s new fundraising campaign ‘Alphabet Jump’ where 26 people, including myself, will be doing a skydive to raise funds for dyslexic children and adults in Ireland. A link to my fundraising page is https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/MissIrelandCroaghPatrickClimb2
I have also supported and raised funds for Variety Ireland since beginning my journey to becoming Miss Ireland, and I am so incredibly impressed with the work they have done and continue to do for children all around Ireland every year.