A Northern Ireland councillor who “left school with nothing” has been awarded a doctorate and discovered a new technique for identifying coronary heart disease.
Newry, Mourne and Down District DUP representative Kathryn Owen became a Doctor this week and will attend an Ulster University graduation ceremony in the coming months.
The former RAF medic and married mother-of-two works in the office of MPs Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Jim Shannon and says she hopes her step back into education in later life will inspire others.
Announcing the news, she said: “I officially become a Doctor as of yesterday, but it became real when my husband Steven woke me up to say it was the last day he could call me Mrs.”
The successful Phd study saw the discovery of a ‘novel way’ to diagnose a blocked coronary artery by using ultra sound on the neck, a development which could now prove a new life saving method for heart disease sufferers.
The former Hunter House College in Belfast student, now a Rowallane councillor, is the first to admit she didn’t exactly finish top of the class.
However, with memories of her ‘Nanna’ receiving one of the first heart stents in Northern Ireland at the Royal hospital, she strived to succeed the field of medical research.
She says: “After leaving school with little to no qualifications, I joined the military and stayed there for eight years before getting married and settling down to have children.
“However, some years later, I began to find myself uninspired and unchallenged, it was a real head in the hands time for me.
“I had always thought of how my Nanna had died and wanted to do something in the field of heart disease and nursing.
“I looked into an education pathway and took up an access course at the local tech and then went on to a Bachelor of Science in human biology at Queen’s graduating in 2018.
“For whatever reason I made the quick decision to apply for a Phd at the University of Ulster though the Southern Trust.
“Within about an hour my application was accepted, you nearly had to pick me up off the floor, I was so in shock.”
Now, four years later the local authority councillor has praised her family, friends and work colleagues for their patience during her arduous journey of juggling work, home life and study.
The confirmation of Dr Owen’s Phd has been welcomed by her boss, MP Jim Shannon on social media: “Many congratulations to my friend and colleague Cllr @KathrynOwen_1 on passing her viva and achieving her PhD in Cardiology today. Well earned and well done Dr Kathryn Owen.”
Dr Owen added: “If my story of going back into education as a 36 year-old mother of two can inspire others, then it has all been worth it.
“It has been a great pleasure that my mum and dad are still with us to see how I left school with nothing and I now have my Phd. My mum asked me if I was going to do anything more, but I think that’s enough of the studies for me now.”