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NDHG Collaborative Research Conference

Rotunda Hospital Master says collaborative research provides great opportunities for improving Irish healthcare and boosting the economy - 29 November 2012

The Rotunda Hospital today, 29 November 2012, hosted the inaugural Conference on Collaborative Lifespan Research on behalf of the North Dublin Hospital Group (NDHG). The group is a collaboration team drawn from the Rotunda, Cappagh, Temple Street, Mater and St Vincent's Fairview hospitals combining lifelong healthcare from maternity, paediatric, adult through to geriatric care.

Opening the conference, the Master of the Rotunda Hospital, Dr. Sam Coulter-Smith, said that the treatment of diseases resulting from obesity such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and colorectal cancer were all managed by the NDHG hospitals. As a group of hospitals with a large patient cohort and a valuable database of information, NDHG should be putting itself forward as the site for a major intervention study in this area. He said there are also opportunities to make a difference through interventions in areas such as mental health, domestic violence, infectious diseases, and alcohol and drug abuse. All of these put an enormous burden on the exchequer. The annual cost of obesity in Ireland alone was €1 bllion.

"As a country we currently spend €50m looking after children affected by cerebral palsy – every year. Yet, perversely, we spend very little on understanding its prevention. Directing collaborative research programmes into all these areas would improve the quality of people’s lives, it would create jobs, and ultimately, it would save money," said Coulter-Smith.

The conference brought together an outstanding group of clinicians, researchers, and thought leaders at the forefront of collaborative research in Ireland.

They spoke on a number of research topics, including new research databases to track infections such as HIV, Hep B, and Hep C in pregnant women, the disease of galactosaemia (severe intolerance of sugar which is even present in breast milk), and research into birth asphyxia which can lead to disabilities and other long-term effects such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and ADHD.

"Today is about showcasing who we are and what we do. We want to demonstrate the value and attractiveness of progressing collaborative research. To look for opportunities for the future. And provide a forum for all health care professionals - not just doctors - to discuss frontier research in Irish medicine," said Dr Coulter-Smith. He hoped that the inaugural conference would become a regular forum for the expression of ideas and finding ways to make them happen with different people and institutions working together. Very busy hospitals meant that doctors and clinicians spent a lot of their time moving from one clinical crisis to the next. They don’t have enough time to address or look for solutions on their own.

"We don’t get an opportunity to meet or link up with people from Bio Engineering, IT, Bio Technology, biomedical companies, industry, designers, or entrepreneurs. All of who either have existing solutions, or could assist with finding new ones, to our everyday issues. The new forum would allow those interested in research and innovation in healthcare to meet, sow seeds and cross-pollinate an exchange of those ideas. And with the right encouragement, funding and resources, they can blossom into solutions, and proposals for further research ideas and solutions, " he told the conference.

The Rotunda Hospital is the oldest maternity hospital in the world. This year is the 300th anniversary year of the birth of its founder, Bartholomew Mosse. Mosse managed to raise to funds through lotteries, concerts and events for the hospital's construction. He convinced the government of the time to support, build and maintain the hospital on Parnell Square, which opened its doors in 1757.

"Mosse worked with others to make it happen. He understood the need for collaboration to bring his idea to fruition. He’d be delighted if collaboration allowed us to find better and more efficient ways of providing services across our hospitals. That we could develop new partnerships with Intellectual property agreements so our brightest talents can work together coming up with solutions and inventions we can export to others," said Dr. Coulter-Smith. "The current economic crisis is stifling innovation. Preventing progress. Blunting the enthusiasm of youth. And forcing people to look for jobs abroad and discouraging our brightest talents from coming back to Ireland. We need to create beacons of hope that attract those talents to blossom here in this country."

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