As Head of discipline in Anatomy, TCD, Dr. Tierney embarked on a change of direction in how the department prioritised its goals.He took the opportunity to hire science graduates rather than medical graduates, and to work with them to start building the department's research base. As pressure on academic staff to produce peer-reviewed publications increases inexorably, every committed academic looks for ways whereby the efficiency of information transfer during and outside contact hours is optimised.
One area of perennial difficulty for Health Science students is reading ECG strips. In conjunction with colleagues within the School of Medicine, Trinity College, and the Institute of Art, Design & Technology, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin (IADT), Dr Tierney is developing an interactive App. that students will use to become familiar with common variations in ECG lead deflections, based on visual association only. To date models of the beating heart and thoracic cage have been produced by the students of IADT, and the next step is amalgamating the two, and building in interactive ECG leads, with the deflections associated with each, in health and disease. This group have also produced brain images with associated arteries, into which physical and psychiatric deficits associated with common occlusive insults will be incorporated.
Dr Tierney also currently collaborates with Athlone Institute of Technololgy to model the dimensions of the articular surfaces of the human knee, the intra-articular menisci, and pathology thereof with a view to mimicking the mechanical forces acting on both which lead to premature ageing of cartilaginous surfaces.
Many aspects of musculoskeletal function in health and disease are surprisingly poorly understood, especially for a discipline such as Anatomy that is hundreds of years old. Driven initially by the desire to teach clinical anatomy in a coherent, holistic manner, Dr Tierney is investigating the biochemistry of deeply placed muscle groups, using flash frozen human muscle, as a means of elucidating more about their function prior to death. Ideally, this novel approach to investigating human muscle function will suggest better regimes for injury avoidance and rehabilitation. There are currently huge gaps in our understanding of how specific muscles groups function in humans, as available animal models are of very limited use. This deficit has consequences for injury, treatment and rehabilitation of these muscle groups. These in turn have significant implications for health care costs, and patient quality of life.