Training People to Apply Research in Clinical Practice

Professor Molly Byrne, Professor of Health Psychology and HRB Research Leader; Director, Health Behaviour Change Research Group, NUI Galway
Jan 14 2020 Posted: 10:25 GMT

The HRB is investing €4.5 million to train health practitioners and academics to PhD level doing research that will improve care for stroke patients, target chronic disease and tackle diabetic foot disease.

Through the HRB Collaborative Doctoral Programme in patient-focused research three teams of experts will each receive €1.5 million. In addition to providing structured training for up to five PhD trainees in each cohort, they are also developing research programmes in highly relevant areas that address specific patient needs.

According to Dr Darrin Morrissey, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board (HRB): “This HRB funding initiative will develop research techniques and ability among trainees, but it will also teach them about designing research programmes that target defined needs in clinical practice. The aim is to close the gap between research that is done and how it is applied in practice to improve patients’ health and care.”

Details of the three Collaborative Doctoral Programmes are outlined below.


iPASTAR (improving Pathways for Acute STroke And Rehabilitation)

Stroke is a major cause of death and the commonest form of acquired physical disability in adults. Fragmentation of care results in poor coordination of key aspects of acute stroke care and does not provide an effective integrated system for acute and rehabilitative stroke treatment.

The specific focus of this CDA programme is to train four PhD trainees from different disciplines and professions, (medicine, physiotherapy or occupational therapy, nursing, health economics or health services research) who will focus on delivery of stroke care for patients, from the hospital, to rehabilitation in the community, then living well after stroke.

The programme is built on feedback from stroke survivors who explained the challenges they, and their families, face following stroke. They identified a need for more support and information at transitions of care after discharge from hospital and early supported discharge, the need for signposting to resources and services, and highlighted the hidden costs that they face in managing life after stroke.

It is a collaboration between RCSI and University College Dublin (UCD)

According to David Williams, Professor of Stroke Medicine, School of Medicine at RCSI, and Beaumont Hospital and Professor Frances Horgan, School of Physiotherapy at RCSI: "This interdisciplinary programme will generate a cohort of post-doctoral researchers with transferrable skills who can make a significant future impact across a range of settings with necessary expertise to generate research evidence that will support cost-effective, patient-focused stroke care. Our iPASTAR consortium of national and international experienced interdisciplinary stroke academic researchers, clinicians, stroke patients and PhD educators are all focused on improving acute stroke care, and stroke recovery and rehabilitation."

Chronic Disease

Collaborative Doctoral Programme in Chronic Disease Prevention (CDP-CDP)

Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke, cause significant illness, are the leading cause of disability and are the most common reason for premature death. If we can improve prevention and self-management of these conditions, we can significantly reduce people’s suffering and reduce costs to health services.

This HRB Collaborative Doctoral Award 2019 aims to improve patient care by developing and delivering a doctoral training programme in evidence-based chronic disease prevention.

It is developed by a consortium of senior research and clinical leaders in diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular prevention. The individual PhD patient-focused research projects will focus on diabetes prevention; digitally delivered cardiac rehabilitation; prevention for women with previous gestational diabetes; enhancing the role of Clinical Nurse Specialists to prevent stroke; and development of peer-support for cardiovascular prevention.

It is a collaboration between NUI Galway, UCC, UCD and the Health Service Executive and will recruit five PhD trainees who will start training in September 2020.

Professor Molly Byrne, Professor of Health Psychology and HRB Research Leader; Director, Health Behaviour Change Research Group, NUI Galway says: "This is a unique opportunity to promote collaborative leadership between health psychology and public health to develop capacity in interdisciplinary research and service delivery in chronic disease prevention, focusing on preventing and managing common chronic diseases which have a major impact in people’s lives."

According to Professor Patricia Kearney, Professor of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health, UCC and Director of ESPRIT Research Group: "This collaborative transdisciplinary approach will increase capacity in patient-focused research on chronic disease prevention in Ireland and enhance understanding among patients and health service providers."

Diabetic Foot disease

Diabetic Foot Disease: from PRevention to treatment to IMproved patient Outcomes (DFD PRIMO)

Diabetes mellitus, a disease associated with high blood glucose, can cause several complications that can directly affect the feet. A diabetic foot ulcer is an open wound or sore on the foot that is often slow to heal and can become easily infected. Infection can spread quickly in people with diabetes and unfortunately leg and/ or foot amputation and early death are associated with diabetes and its related foot problems.

Early recognition of foot problems and timely, appropriate, treatments are key for the prevention of serious foot problems in people with diabetes. Clinical guidelines advocate for preventative measures however there is little evidence in the area of prevention of foot problems in diabetes.

The main aim of this programme is to train future healthcare innovation leaders in providing cost-effective care to people at risk from Diabetic Foot Disease (DFD). It will equip a cohort of talented doctoral students with core, specialised research, and complementary transferable skills to enable them to establish and lead world class research in DFD.

Early stage professionals, such as public health nurses, podiatrists and health behavioural researchers will be trained in this programme. Emerging from the training programme they will be equipped to lead research and development of care delivery in their specialism; competently and independently undertake patient focused research and evaluate patient, population, and healthcare system outcomes.

Speaking about the training programme, Prof Timothy O Brien, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway says: "We plan to create the next generation of interdisciplinary healthcare researchers who will provide new approaches to the prevention and treatment of diabetic foot disease. Ultimately our goal is to enhance patient care through rigorous clinical research undertaken with the input of patients."

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