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The Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) Ignite Programme at NUI Galway has launched a PPI Catalysts initiative, a leadership group of researchers spread across the Irish university who intend to advance the teaching and practice of meaningful patient-involved research.

In 2017, NUI Galway was one of five universities awarded funding under the Health Research Board and Irish Research Council’s £1.5 million PPI Ignite initiative to help researchers involve the public at the beginning of their healthcare research.

Professor Sean Dinneen, Director of the PPI Ignite at NUI Galway programme, said: “More and more members of the public and patients are working with research teams to help influence what health research should be undertaken, how research should be designed and conducted, and how research results should be used to bring about change.

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“Patients are experts in the condition they live with; so hearing from patients about the experience of living with a particular condition provides researchers with real insight into that condition.

“The increasing number of partnerships between members of the public/patients and researchers being established, ensure that research is guided by the voice of the public and the patient.”

The four PPI Catalysts are: Dr Ruth McMenamin from the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences; Dr Martin O’Halloran from the College of Science and Engineering; Dr Oonagh Meade from the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies; and Dr Michelle Queally from the College of Business, Public Policy and Law.

Research conducted by Dr Ruth McMenamin, in the field of speech and language therapy, is in collaboration with people who live with aphasia, a language disorder experienced by up to one-third of the stroke population.

Her PPI work focuses on including this group as co-researchers to ensure that research on aphasia is strongly guided by the people with aphasia themselves.

“PPI in research means working with public and patients in all stages of the research process. By doing involvement work researchers move away from thinking about ‘my research’ towards thinking about ‘our research’ and this leads to transformative experiences for all involved in the research process,” commented Dr McMenamin.

Dr Martin O’Halloran, Head of the Translational Medical Device Laboratory at NUI Galway, leads the development of medical devices that have a tangible impact on patient care.

He commented: “The key opinion leader in device development has traditionally been the doctor. The patient voice is now becoming more important.

“PPI gives us an insight into the patient perspective on what devices are needed and what problems devices should focus on solving. PPI shapes our projects and helps us to understand the needs of patients and the urgency to develop a solution for a patient population.”

Dr Oonagh Meade, a health psychologist at NUI Galway with extensive experience of involving mental health service users as research partners, is shaping a research study exploring the experiences of those living with long-term health conditions.

Finally, Dr Michelle Queally is a health economist who works to bring the voice of the public and patient to influence her research in a variety of areas, including childhood obesity and clinical trials.

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