RCSI awarded HRB funding for PhDs to improve stroke care

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An RCSI-led PhD consortium that aims to improve the delivery of stroke care for patients has been successfully funded under the HRB Collaborative Doctoral Awards Programme (CDA).

The Health Research Board (HRB) is investing a total of €4.5 million in three CDA programmes that aim to train health professionals and academics to PhD level in specialist research areas that address specific patient needs.

iPASTAR (improving Pathways for Acute STroke And Rehabilitation) will train four PhD trainees from different disciplines and professions (medicine; physiotherapy or occupational therapy; nursing; health economics or health services research). Their PhDs 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. These patients 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.

iPASTAR co-leads Professor David Williams, Professor of Stroke Medicine, RCSI School of Medicine and Beaumont Hospital and Professor Frances Horgan, Associate Professor, RCSI School of Physiotherapy said: “This interdisciplinary programme will generate a cohort of post-doctoral researchers with transferrable skills who can make 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 stroke recovery and rehabilitation”.

Professor Fergal O’Brien, RCSI Director of Research and Innovation said: “At RCSI, we focus on clinical and patient-centred research that address health challenges in Ireland and internationally. The iPASTAR programme exemplifies how research can be applied in clinical settings so that those working on the front line can make meaningful improvements to patient care for stroke survivors.”

According to Dr Darrin Morrissey, Chief Executive at the 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’

iPASTAR is a collaboration between RCSI and UCD. The core partners are Professor Anne Hickey (RCSI); Professor Peter J Kelly (UCD); Professor Peter Langhorne (University of Glasgow); Dr Olive Lennon (UCD); Professor Paddy Gillespie (NUIG); Professor John Thornton (Beaumont Hospital/RCSI); Professor Thilo Kroll (UCD); Professor Jan Sorensen (RCSI); Professor Michael Hill (University of Calgary); and Ms Mary Scullion (PPI). RCSI collaborators on the programme are Professor Kathleen Bennett, Dr Fiona Boland and Dr Lisa Mellon.