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Harnessing our expertise for the greater good: Patricia Doherty

Dr Patricia Doherty is the recipient of a Trinity Research Excellence Award for 2020 in the category 'Harness our collective expertise for the greater good.' A Senior Research Programme Officer with more than 10 years experience working in the field of breast cancer research, Patricia outlines what her role in the Trinity St James's Cancer Institute involves.

After over a decade as an academic cancer researcher myself, I feel that I have a deep understanding of the unique challenges facing our scientists as they navigate through the funding landscape. Late nights trying to meet grant deadlines, often squeezing it in amongst the duties of teaching, tutoring, bench-work/clinical work or both, plus personal commitments, is exhausting. Fierce competition and low funding levels means rejection is part and parcel of the job.  It is unique, frustrating and yet, powerfully rewarding when you finally hit the mark.

As the Senior Research Programme officer and coordinator of the OECI programme, I manage the research funding portfolio for the Trinity St. James’s Cancer Institute (TSJCI). My aim is to support our researchers in driving their research agenda and growing their teams by securing grants from national, European and international agencies. I endeavor to develop and implement systems and approaches that facilitate the sustainability of cancer-related research funding into the future, by bringing people together and enabling interdisciplinary applications. I work with a broad range of researchers, spanning several fields including cancer genetics, immunology, drug discovery, molecular biology, cancer prevention and survivorship, to name a few.

The funding landscape has changed a lot over the last decade. There is increasing pressure on researchers to emphasise how their research will impact society or the economy, to show the funding agency how their investment will result in a commercial enterprise, a product, feed into a policy document or deliver a benefit to the public. There is also a strong emphasis on greater public patient engagement in scientific research, with some charities including this as part of a short-listing step in the review process. I can provide guidance and strategic direction for researchers to strengthen these areas, among others, and increase chances of success.
We are collectively aiming to create a cancer research ecosystem dedicated to world class research delivering the full cancer discovery pipeline. 

Part of our pathway to becoming a world-renowned cancer research institute is to consolidate and integrate further our strengths in basic and translational research with our clinical research colleagues at St. James’s hospital, Trinity’s academic teaching hospital. In late 2015, Trinity and St. James’s began the journey of working towards accreditation and designation of the TSJCI as a centre of integrated cancer care and translational research. This accreditation is given by the Organisation of European Cancer Institutes (OECI). The mission of the OECI, established in 1979, is to foster high-quality comprehensive cancer care, research and education, with the aim of improving patient outcomes throughout Europe. We were accepted as members of OECI in 2017 and following a self-assessment phase we underwent a 2-day site audit in early 2019.

The audit involved an assessment of the planning and organisation of integrated care, multidisciplinary care delivery, the integration and translation of research into clinical care, education for all academic and clinical professionals, patient satisfaction and involvement in care and sustained quality improvement plans based on evidence and outcomes. Our overall objective here was to link all patients with a diagnosis of cancer to advances in science and clinical trials, and to develop an academic structure that supports and leads nationally and interfaces internationally with other leading centres. This culminated in the Trinity St. James’s Cancer Institute becoming Ireland’s first accredited cancer centre. As coordinator of the OECI process for TSJCI, this was the result of an intensive period of engagement and collaboration across both organisations.

I hope that my role supports and enables the high calibre of research conducted at the Trinity St. James’s Cancer Institute and I am excited to be part of our continued development and growth into the future.


Patricia Doherty

Patricia Doherty, Ph.D. is the Senior Research Programme Officer for Cancer and local coordinator for the Organisation of European Cancer Institutes (OECI). Dr. Doherty worked for more than 10 years in the field of breast cancer research at University College Dublin and the University of Western Ontario, Canada. She has >20 publications and a number of peer-reviewed funding awards from this time. She brings this expertise to Trinity to support scientific and clinical colleagues in the development of quality, interdisciplinary research proposals and is involved strategically in the development of the Trinity St. James’s Cancer Institute. In 2019, she coordinated the process that led to TSJCI being designated as Ireland’s first OECI- accredited cancer centre.