Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Two NUI Galway Researchers Named as a Health Research Board Research Leaders

Professor Gary Donohoe, Established Professor of Psychology at NUI Galway and Director of the NUI Galway Center for Neuroimaging, Cognition and Genomics, and Dr Akke Vellinga, Epidemiologist and Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine, have been named as two of five new Research Leaders by the Health Research Board. Each Research Leader has developed strong partnerships with different parts of the health sector to conduct research programmes that will deliver evidence to directly inform changes in health policy and practice. Professor Donohoe is aiming to provide psychosocial supports for young people with severe mental health challenges, while Dr Vellinga will provide actionable research to reduce infections and the use of antibiotics. Professor Donohoe’s award is in the area of youth mental health, in collaboration with the National Early Intervention for Psychosis Service. The overarching aim of this research program is to build capacity for evaluating and implementing psychological treatments in young people with mental health difficulties. 75% of all mental health difficulties first occur between 15-25 years of age, but despite this young people have the poorest access to treatment and supports. The more severe of these disorders, including schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, are ranked by the World Health Organisation as a top five cause of years lived with disability. Commenting on the award, Professor Donohoe said: “This is a tremendous opportunity to lead a collaboration with key figures in the Health Service Executive providing early psychosis services, and international experts in youth mental health research. This award recognises the critical need for research-informed services focused on youth mental health, informing implementation of best practice and new discoveries in routine care.” Dr Vellinga was named as HRB Research Leader for her Collaboration to reduce Antibiotic use and Resistance and identify opportunities for improvement and Awareness (CARA) project. In Europe, about 33,000 people die each year as a direct consequence of an infection due to bacteria resistant to antibiotics.  Dr Vellinga said: “Superbugs cause resistant infections which are difficult to treat and pose a serious threat to human health. This programme will combine, link and analyse data from multiple already existing databases about infection, antibiotic prescribing antibiotic resistance and other healthcare- information. The CARA data-infrastructure will be set up with dashboards for other researchers, clinicians, and healthcare workers to visualise relevant and linked data. Using data visualisation, we will be able to identify opportunities to reduce infections and antibiotic use and improve health care.” Dr Vellinga and her team will be working closely with Professor Mathieu d’Aquin from the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at the NUI Galway, as well as the Health Protection and Surveillance Centre, Irish College of General Practitioners, DCU, and Imperial College London. Dr Darrin Morrissey, CEO of the Health Research Board: “It is essential that we support health research leaders who can deliver solid evidence to improve decision making, practice and policy in relation topical health issues such as health service reform, mental health and antimicrobial resistance.” The research programs will support a team of researchers over five years, including PhD students, research assistants, and postdoctoral researchers, and provide dedicated academic and clinical time. The total value of each award is €1.5M. -Ends-