News roundup

Published: 31 May 2018

€5.7 million for new health researcher training programmes

Recruitment is just starting in four new health researcher training programmes. Each programme will be to doctoral level and will have a strong patient-focus. The programmes will be in the areas of youth mental health, neonatal brain injury, elderly care, and multimorbidity in primary care settings.

Decorative image: blurred photo of group of students in a room

'These awards are an important part of developing future leaders to undertake high quality health research in our health care system', says Dr Mairead O'Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the Health Research Board.

The training programmes will equip health researchers with an extensive skill set that will allow them to go on and integrate research with patient care in their specialist clinical areas'. I am confident that these new researcher training programmes are going to make a long-term impact on patient care'.

The four new programmes will train 18 people over the next five years.

Dr Annalisa Montesanti, Programme Manager, HRB added,

'These four successful awards were selected on the basis that each one brings a coherent, structured approach to training health researchers to doctoral level in their respective fields.

As Mairead mentioned already, they had strong links to the delivery of care. They also leveraged existing HRB-funded programmes and centres. They involved cross-disciplinary and inter sectorial collaborations, and they placed important emphasis on public and patient involvement'.

The Collaborate Doctoral Awards scheme was developed as part of the Health Research Careers portfolio. This portfolio aims to provide a coordinated approach to train and support health-related researchers and health professionals at every career stage.

Summary details of the four awards are below. Further queries about any of the programmes should be directed to the relevant Principal Investigator.

1. Doctoral Program in Youth Mental Health Leadership (The YouLead Program)

Principal Investigator: Professor Gary Donohoe, NUI Galway

Award amount: €1.5 million

Summary: This doctoral training program focuses on youth mental health research.

Mental health difficulties (including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia) account for approximately half of all causes of disability in individuals under the age of 35. Despite the fact that access to treatment is strongly associated with reduced risk of mental health difficulties later in life, people aged 12-25 years have the poorest access to treatment of all age groups. This award will establish a cross university interdisciplinary curriculum in youth mental health research that will:

  1. train five PhD candidates in interdisciplinary youth mental health research methodologies;
  2. carry out of 15 studies in five key thematic areas of youth mental health using state of the art methodologies;
  3. establish an Irish youth mental health research network  that will include researchers, individuals/families with lived experience of mental health difficulties, national health services, and national/governmental policy makers.
2. Neonatal Brain Injury Consortium Ireland

Principal investigator: Professor Eleanor Molloy, TCD

Awards amount: €1.4 million

Summary: Neonatal brain injury has serious consequences including problems with development and cerebral palsy. Cooling or Hypothermia therapy is the only treatment available but half of all babies still have brain injury.

We plan to train PhD candidates in the newest and most effective methods to monitor and manage these babies. The research group will study the best methods to care for babies and their families and create detailed clinical guidelines. The PhD candidates will be the experts leading research, innovation and care of these infants in the future.

3. 'Right Care': a programme of research to enhance safe and appropriate care for older patients in Ireland

Principal Investigator: Professor Tom Fahey

Award amount: €1.4 million

Summary: This research programme will examine how right care can be given at the right time and in the right setting, so that older people get the greatest benefit and the lowest harm from health interventions. It will train four PhD doctoral candidates; a statistician, a general practitioner, a physiotherapist, and a pharmacist with four linked doctoral projects.

  1. The first doctoral project will identify types of medical investigations, medications and surgical treatments that get used too much or too little in older patients. It will also examine how general practitioners can help older people as 'gatekeepers' of the care they need as they get older.
  2. The second doctoral project will examine older people who attend the hospital emergency department or out-of-hours GP service. It will identify visits that could have been avoided and investigate ways to predict which patients will re-attend or be admitted to hospital.
  3. The third doctoral project will focus on older people discharged from the hospital emergency department who are at risk of being re-admitted. It will gather previous research on the topic and involve members of the public. Based on this, we will design a physiotherapy program for older people after they leave hospital and test how well it works in preventing unnecessary re-admission amongst older people.
  4. The fourth doctoral project will use documents submitted to drug regulatory authorities that provide all the details on the testing of new medications for some types of respiratory and heart disease. This will enable us to examine the benefits and harms of these new treatments in older people and assess whether they represent good value for money for the health service.
4. Managing complex multimorbidity in primary care: a multidisciplinary doctoral training programme

Principal investigator: Professor Susan Smith, RCSI

Award amount: €1.4 million

Summary: This structured doctoral training programme will train four PhD candidates with clinical and research backgrounds. The focus will be on primary care delivery for patients who are referred to as having complex multimorbidity, which means that they have multiple long term conditions and are often on ten or more regular medicines.

This programme will provide evidence and support the development of patient-focused interventions to improve care and outcomes in complex multimorbidity. PhD candidates will be equipped with skills for academic, clinical and policy settings.  The programme brings together a consortium of international, experienced senior researchers and PhD educators from a range of disciplines and settings to provide an appropriate blend of expert programme management, supervision and peer support and an opportunity for national and international PhD placements.