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Trinity Biostatistician Wins HRB Research Leader Award

News feed for Trinity College Dublin.

Jan 10, 2014

Professor Cathal Walsh will establish a centre of excellence for decision making in health services after winning a prestigious HRB Research Leader Award

Professor in Statistics at Trinity College Dublin, Cathal Walsh, is one of six researchers to win a Health Research Board (HRB) Research Leader Award. A total of €9 million is being invested in the research leaders to address strategic gaps and develop leadership capacity in population health and health services research in Ireland.

Professor Walsh will establish the National Centre for Health Decision Science in Ireland. He and his team will use mathematical models and Bayesian statistical methods, which combine new data with current knowledge to better inform logical and evidence-based decision making.  Professor Walsh and  his team will use large datasets of health information to determine the best health-related interventions to achieve the best outcomes for patients.  These techniques will be applied to decisions relating to pharmaceuticals, vaccines and cancer screening technologies.

Professor Walsh said: “Through the award, we will build capacity to continually improve and develop the approaches we use in order to extract the best evidence from all relevant data available to inform decision making about interventions in the future. In the ‘big data’ world this includes registry and eHealth outcomes, as well as clinical trial data. These allow us to make better decisions about how we deliver healthcare to our population to improve outcomes for all.”

“It will influence which drugs, vaccines and devices we use and why. The economic impact of these choices is also substantial, given that our own drugs budget is in excess of €2 billion and Ireland exports in excess of €4 billion of medical devices per annum. The quantitative methods also allow us to deal coherently with the uncertainty and complexity that exist in the evidence about many of the newer technologies that are developed.”

The programme will use the advanced Bayesian statistical methods and computational resources available in the School of Computer Science and Statistics at Trinity, and bring it together with the Health Technology Assessment and Health Economics expertise available at the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE).  Professor Walsh will also partner with other leading institutions including Harvard’s School of Public Health and the Universities of Sheffield and York. 

Professor Michael Barry, Clinical Director of the NCPE, said: “We are delighted to be the primary health related partner and collaborator for this award. Since its establishment the NCPE has been closely connected to academic centres, having been founded from the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at Trinity. Recognising the growing relevance of Bayesian methods, we have in the last decade worked closely with the Statistics Department at Trinity in our assessments of vaccines, screening technologies and pharmaceuticals. This award will facilitate further methodological developments in an area which has already been supported by Trinity through its appointment of an Ussher Assistant Professor of Health Technology Assessment in 2012.”  

All of the HRB Research Leader Award recipients will coordinate research programmes focused on delivering relevant and timely evidence that can be used in health care decision-making and which are designed in consultation with leading healthcare decision makers. The research leaders will create a solid foundation of expertise and evidence to deliver better health, reduced health care costs and new approaches to care that benefit patients, care providers and the economy. 

Teresa Maguire, Head of Population Health and Health Services Research at the HRB, said: “The HRB Research Leaders Awards are a significant investment to ensure that our health research community in Ireland is in a position to provide strong research and evidence in relation to current, emerging and often complex challenges in healthcare that are perplexing decision makers, practitioners and policy makers. 

“This funding for leaders at a senior level complements other investments by the HRB in the last four years at early and mid-career level. The awards also create 22 new research jobs as the HRB Research Leaders grow their existing teams to support the work programmes.”

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| sharon.campbell@tcd.ie | Last updated: January 9, 2014