Health Minister launches new programme to train future clinical academic leaders

A unique all-Ireland programme to train the next generation of clinician scientists has been launched today by Minister for Health, Simon Harris. The Wellcome- HRB Irish Clinical Academic Training Programme (ICAT) promotes future excellence in healthcare research and innovation and will train world-class clinician academics.

The highly collaborative and all island programme involves six major universities and their affiliated hospital groups in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as two health services and postgraduate training bodies North and South.

Traditionally, medical school graduates who wish to specialise in a particular clinical area such as nephrology or psychiatry enter postgraduate clinical training programmes which focusses predominantly on clinical learning and practice and with little protected time for research and teaching.

The ICAT programme is an integrated programme over 6-7 years which combines clinical training and mentored academic training, in effect, fast-tracking our future clinical academic leaders. In addition to providing world-class clinical care to patients, these clinician scientists also invest a significant proportion of their time in research pursuits, both clinical and scientific. They will innovate and develop the therapies and care for the future through developing an understanding of diseases and their treatments.

This represents a fundamental change in the training of future academic clinicians on an all-Ireland basis as Professor Michael Gill, principal director of the ICAT Programme and Head of the School of Medicine at Trinity College Dublin explained: Excellence in research, innovation and teaching leads to excellence in clinical care. International research has shown that hospitals and other healthcare organisations that are active in research and teaching have been shown to deliver better patient outcomes.

Minister for Health, Simon Harris said: “Patients will be the long-term winners as this collaborative investment will fundamentally improve both the number and calibre of clinician scientists working in our universities and health services. I was pleased to announce in September of 2016, the investment by Wellcome, the Health Research Board, the Universities and the HSE-NDTP, and HSC R&I. I’m delighted to be asked back to formally launch this significant investment in the future of the health service, and I know the positive impact for patient care is going to be very real. I am highly impressed with the calibre of the first eight ICAT Fellows from across the postgraduate disciplines and I look forward to hearing about their career progression, and those of successive waves of ICAT fellows in the next few years.”

Dr Mairead O Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the Health Research Board said: “The HRB is committed to creating a research-active culture among health professionals. This leads to better patient care and health service delivery. Our investment in this ICAT programme complements many other initiatives the HRB has underway to engage people in research at an early stage in their career. I congratulate the first cohort of fellows and wish them well for what will be a dynamic and challenging training journey.”

The partner universities involved in the programme include Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, NUI Galway, University College Cork, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Queen’s University Belfast. Each academic partner is affiliated to hospitals and hospital groups in their region.

Other partners in ICAT include the Wellcome Trust, the Health Research Board, the Health Service Executive National Doctors Training and Planning (HSE NDTP), the Health and Social Care Research and Development in Northern Ireland (HSC R&D), the Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency (NIMDTA) and the Forum of Postgraduate Medical Training Bodies. The ICAT Programme is coordinated by Molecular Medicine Ireland.

The first eight fellows to begin the programme will train in a range of clinical specialities, including Psychiatry, Infectious Diseases, Endocrinology, Dermatology, Nephrology and Public Health Medicine.

The fellows embark on year 1 of the programme in their institution of choice (Trinity College Dublin, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, University College Cork, National University of Ireland Galway, University College Dublin or Queen’s University Belfast). Fellows use this year to design and conduct a mini-project, access a large curriculum of educational modules and develop PhD projects with ICAT supervisors, selected for their research excellence. ICAT fellows will spend 70% of their time in clinical training in year 1.

Following the development of their PhD proposals, ICAT fellows register for a full-time 3-year PhD. ICAT fellows will benefit from continuing mentorship throughout the programme, up to completion of their PhD and clinical training to CCST.

The programme is jointly funded to a total of €16M by Wellcome, the HRB, the HSE National Doctors Training and Planning (NDTP) in the Republic of Ireland, the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Research & Development Division (HSC R&D) and the partner universities.

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Yolanda Kennedy, Former Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Sciences | | +353 1 896 4168