Department of Health Psychology

The Department of Health Psychology was established in 1985, making it the first psychology department in a medical school in Ireland.

The department represents RCSI on HSE-led national steering and working groups tasked with developing undergraduate curricula on ‘Making Every Contact Count’ (focused on health behaviour change) and self-management support, to be made available for all undergraduate healthcare professional students in the Republic of Ireland, regardless of discipline.

Research successes included grant awards from the Health Research Board, the Irish Research Council and Horizon 2020. Ongoing research collaborations with international and national partners span a variety of disciplines.

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The Department of Health Psychology provides health psychology, behavioural sciences and research methods teaching to MedicinePhysiotherapy and Pharmacy Undergraduate students; Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) students; Postgraduate Master's; and Structured PhD programmes. 

We focus on developing students’ team working skills, their resilience and reflective practitioner skills – ensuring that our graduates have the knowledge, values, and abilities necessary to build healthy professional and patient relationships and deliver person-centred healthcare.

Undergraduate Medicine and Physiotherapy students and GEM students currently take a dedicated health psychology module entitled ‘Health, Behaviour and Patient Safety’, as well as an integrated neuroscience module that encompasses a significant psychology component.

Pharmacy students completing the MPharm degree experience psychology throughout the five years of the programme. Our teaching integrates key themes from psychology and health psychology such as lifespan development, learning and memory, health risk behaviours, adherence and health behaviour change theory with other core pharmacy competencies such as pharmacy practice, pharmacology, pharmaceutics, and pharmaceutical chemistry.

Our postgraduate teaching comprises health psychology and research methods input on the SPHeRE PhD programme, the Physician Associate programme, the Masters in Surgery (MCh) programme and a short course in Health Research Methods. In addition, we supervise MCh, MSc and PhD theses.

Certificate in Lifestyle Medicine

Lifestyle medicine is the science and application of healthy lifestyles as interventions for the promotion of health and well-being, and for the prevention and treatment of lifestyle-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity and some cancers.

The aim of the Certificate in Lifestyle Medicine is to provide RCSI students with evidence-based knowledge and practical strategies to instil healthy lifestyle behaviours in themselves, as well as in their future patients.

This certificate focuses on six pillars of healthy lifestyles:

  • Stress management
  • Nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • Sleep
  • Smoking cessation
  • Alcohol and substance use

Each of these pillars of health has been strongly linked with common chronic diseases and each are key modifiable risk factors for these diseases.

The Department of Health Psychology makes a key contribution to RCSI’s research activities, with an international reputation for health psychology, health services and population health research. To date, the department has received over €20 million in grant awards and has a strong publication record, authoring over 50 national reports and more than 400 peer-reviewed journal articles.

The department's research focusses, in particular, on cardiovascular disease, ageing, sexual health, quality of life assessment, respiratory disease, psychometrics, mental health, health behaviours, and complex intervention development and implementation.

Our faculty actively contribute to the health psychology community by hosting national and international conferences, including the European Health Psychology Society and Psychology, Health and Medicine annual conferences. We have also chaired the Psychological Society of Ireland Division of Health Psychology and have two past presidents of the European Health Psychology Society.

The department currently has 28 postgraduate scholars – including 18 PhDs, two MDs and eight Masters students (including MScs and MChs) – working on a diverse range of projects.

Professor/Head of Department

Associate Professors

Senior Lecturers

  • Sally Doherty (seconded: Psychology Lead, RCSI-Bahrain)


Postdoctoral Researchers

Research Assistants

Honorary Clinical Associate Professor

  • Niall Pender

Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer

  • Diane Gillan 

Department Coordinator

  • Niamh Corbett