NUIG professors receive prestigious award from Health Research Board

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Galway Daily news NUIG professors named field leaders by Health Research Board

Two professors at NUI Galway have been named as Research Leaders by the Health Research Board for their groundbreaking work.

Professor Gary Donohoe and Dr Akke Vellinga were two of five people newly chosen as Research Leaders by the Health Research Board.

Prof Donohoe is a Professor of Psychology at and Director of the NUIG Center for Neuroimaging, Cognition and Genomics, and Dr Vellinga is an Epidemiologist and Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine.

Each of the awards from the HRB comes with €1.5 million to advance their respective research project.

Both researchers have been praised for developing strong partnerships with different parts of the health sector to conduct research that will inform health policy.

Professor Donohoe is aiming to provide psychosocial supports for young people with severe mental health challenges, while Dr Vellinga’s research focuses on reducing infections and the use of antibiotics.

Prof Donohoe’s award is in the area of youth mental health, in collaboration with the National Early Intervention for Psychosis Service.

Mental Health difficulties overwhelmingly have their roots at a young age, with with 75% of problems first occurring between the ages of 15 – 25.

Despite this, there is often a lack of supports for people in this age bracket, which Prof Donohoe’s research hope to improve.

“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,” he said of the award.

The award recognises the “critical need” for research informed mental health services, he added.

Dr Vellinga was named as HRB Research Leader for her collaborative work to reduce Antibiotic use and resistance.

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.”

The Collaboration to reduce Antibiotic use and Resistance and identify opportunities for improvement and Awareness (CARA) project is a data visualisation dashboard that researchers, clinicians, and healthcare workers can access and use to visualise data.

“This programme will combine, link and analyse data from multiple already existing databases about infection, antibiotic prescribing antibiotic resistance and other healthcare- information.”

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.