Monday, 21 August 2017

Leading Physician to Deliver Sir Peter Freyer Memorial Lecture at NUI Galway

NUI Galway will host the 42nd Sir Peter Freyer Memorial Lecture and Surgical Symposium, the largest Surgical Conference in Ireland, from 1-2 September. The annual event provides a platform for healthcare professionals to present their research and clinical work, and allows for the merging of both scientific and clinical information. It is named in memory of the Galway-born surgeon, Sir Peter Freyer, who performed the first successful surgical operation to remove an enlarged prostate in 1900. It comprises multiple research and education sessions across the various surgical subspecialties, two keynote addresses and discussion around the future of Irish Surgery. Michael F. Collins, MD is Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Medical School & Senior Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts will deliver the Memorial Lecture entitled ‘In Search of the Tossed Cap: Following Medicine’s Privilege’ on Friday, 1 September.  Dr Collins currently oversees the University of Massachusetts system-wide health and life sciences portfolio, charged with leading strategic initiatives to strengthen the university’s efforts in the area and to engage more fully with the Commonwealth’s dynamic health and life sciences sector. Dr Collins is actively engaged in service to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and has amassed vast experience in governance of not for profit and educational entities. Currently, he serves on the boards of UMass Memorial Health Care, Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, The American University of Beirut, Commerce Bancshares Corp., Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Greater Worcester Community Foundation and the Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts. He is a Board Certified Physician in Internal Medicine and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. Professor Calvin Coffey is the Foundation Chair of Surgery in University of Limerick and University Hospitals Limerick Group. Professor Coffey will deliver the State of the Art Lecture entitled ‘Da Vinci and Colorectal Surgery’ on Saturday, 2 September.  Professor Coffey in 2016 pioneered robotic intestinal surgery in Ireland and led the team that set up the first multidisciplinary robotic program in Ireland. He is the chief author of the book Mesenteric Principles of Gastrointestinal Surgery: Basic and Applied Science. This book is the first reference test on the human mesentery, related diseases and surgical treatment strategies. He is editor in Chief of the journal, Mesentery and Peritoneum. The Programme also features a Session on the Role of Research in Surgical Training discussing the optimisation of the potential and opportunities for all Surgeons and trainees to take part in research, acquiring necessary skills and methodology throughout their careers. Professor of Surgery at NUI Galway, Michael Kerin, who is hosting the event along with his colleague Professor Oliver McAnena, said: “We are delighted to welcome Dr Collins and Professor Coffey to our University. Dr Collins is a sought-after motivational speaker, who draws from his decades-long experiences in academic medicine to frame the enduring role of physicians in a profession that continues to evolve from and be shaped by external forces.”   Professor Coffey has published ground-breaking research which has identified an emerging area of science having reclassified a part of the digestive system as an organ. Professor Coffey’s research proposes that the mesentery, which connects the intestine and the abdomen, is an organ. For hundreds of years it had been seen as a fragmented structure made up separate parts. Their lectures are the focal points of a large programme containing some of the best surgical research from this country”. -Ends- 

News Archive

Monday, 14 August 2017

NUI Galway has relaunched its iPoints app, addressing the new Common Points Scale, which is now in effect for all Leaving Certificate students.  The app will allow Leaving Certificate students to quickly and easily calculate their points when they receive their exam results and is available through iTunes for both iPhone and iPad. The NUI Galway iPoints app is available for all iPhone and iPad users on the iTunes store now  The app calculates the number of points attained in each subject, in line with the revised Common Points Scale, and indicates the total. The app calculates 25 additional points to be added for Higher Maths if relevant, and allows for Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) scores to be included. The app also gives students the option to share their results by text message, or through social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, if they wish. Commenting on the app, Stephen O’Dea, Admissions Officer at NUI Galway said: “Unlike the old Leaving Certificate points, the new Common Points Scale is designed to minimise the impact of random points’ allocation as fewer individuals will end up with the same score. This has been achieved by using a non-linear scale. The downside of this of course is the points awarded for individual grades are slightly less memorable than before. As it’s the first year of operation, many will be unfamiliar with the new scale so the iPoints app will offer Leaving Certificate students an easy way to quickly calculate their total score.” ___________________________________________________ Déanann OÉ Gaillimh an aip iPoints a athsheoladh chun teacht leis an gComhscála Pointí nua don Ardteistiméireacht Tá an aip iPoints athsheolta ag OÉ Gaillimh, ag tabhairt san áireamh an Comhscála Pointí nua, atá i bhfeidhm anois do gach scoláire Ardteistiméireachta.  Tabharfaidh an aip deis do scoláirí Ardteistiméireachta a gcuid pointí a ríomh go tapa agus go héasca nuair a fhaigheann siad a gcuid torthaí scrúdaithe agus tá sé ar fáil ar iTunes don iPhone agus don iPad. Tá aip iPoints OÉ Gaillimh ar fáil do gach úsáideoir iPhone agus iPad sa siopa iTunes anois Ríomhann an aip líon na bpointí a bhaintear amach i ngach ábhar, ag teacht leis an gComhscála Pointí leasaithe, agus tugann sé an t-iomlán. Ríomhann an aip 25 pointe breise don Mhatamaitic Ardleibhéil más cuí, agus cuimsíonn sé na scóir do Ghairmchlár na hArdteistiméireachta (GCAT). Tugann an aip deis do mhic léinn chomh maith a gcuid torthaí a roinnt ar theachtaireacht téacs, nó ar na meáin shóisialta cosúil le Facebook agus Twitter, más mian leo sin a dhéanamh. Ag labhairt dó faoin aip dúirt Stephen O’Dea, Oifigeach Iontrála in OÉ Gaillimh: “Ní hionann agus seanchóras pointí na hArdteistiméireachta, tá an Comhscála Pointí nua leagtha amach chun tionchar leithdháileadh randamach na bpointí a laghdú mar ní bheidh an oiread céanna daoine ag fáil an líon céanna pointí. Bainfear é seo amach trí scála neamhlíneach a úsáid. Is é an míbhuntáiste a bhaineann leis seo ar ndóigh ná nach bhfuil sé chomh héasca cuimhneamh ar na pointí a bhronntar do na gráid ar leith is a bhí cheana.  Ós rud é gurb é seo an chéad bhliain don chóras seo, beidh go leor daoine nach bhfuil ar an eolas faoin scála nua agus mar sin is bealach éasca é an aip iPoints ag scoláirí Ardteistiméireachta a scór iomlán a ríomh.” -Críoch- 

Monday, 14 August 2017

Charity renews its call for a specific family homelessness strategy following an independent research report carried out by NUI Galway and TCD Focus Ireland welcomed a new independent research report on the difficulties faced by families that are homeless in accessing healthy food and having normal family meals. The report, which was jointly funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) and the Department of Health, was carried out by Marita Hennessy at NUI Galway and Dr Michelle Share, who is an internationally recognised expert on food poverty and a Senior Research Fellow at Trinity College Dublin. The new report entitled Food Access and Nutritional Health among Families in Emergency Homeless Accommodation, outlined the negative impact food poverty has on the health and wellbeing of children living in emergency homeless accommodation in Dublin. The Food Report was launched by the Director of Investigations at the Ombudsman for Children, Nuala Ward. Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy in Focus Ireland said: “This report highlights the enormous difficulties faced by the over 1,000 families that are homeless and living in emergency accommodation. But it is also a very positive and forward looking report, setting out useful guidelines and standards which should inform the development of the new Family Homeless Hubs. It also clearly sets out the answer for these families must be homes of their own.” Focus Ireland managed the commissioning and publication of the report on behalf of the DCYA and Department of Health. The research outlines parents’ daily struggle to provide healthy meals for their children and themselves due to the challenging circumstances of living on very low incomes in emergency homeless accommodation.  Mr Allen said: “This research highlights the complex issues arising in trying to support families that are homeless. It reinforces Focus Ireland’s call for a specific homeless sub-strategy for families, with a cast-iron commitment families will not spend more than 6 months in emergency accommodation.” The Food Report highlighted the lack of access to cooking and storage facilities, it has led to families supplementing their diets with noodles, instant pasta, chicken and chips and pizza. The research included detailed interviews with ten parents living in emergency homeless accommodation and also six service providers involved in the provision of health and social services for people who are homeless.   The study sought to explore the food situation for these families and to make recommendations for policy-makers and front-line service providers to help improve food security, health and well-being among families who are homeless. The parents interviewed spoke of huge difficulties finding healthy meals for their children due to restricted times of access to kitchen facilities, communal eating facilities and a lack of storage facilities and utensils for food. The research has found that regimented meal times and the constrained food provision conditions in homeless accommodation services negatively influence children’s dietary intake. Dr Michelle Share from TCD explained: “It’s not just about food and nutrition: families have to rely on takeaways and convenience foods. It makes it harder for children to develop good eating habits as they have to eat in socially unacceptable circumstances, like dining on the bed, or on the floor, lined up at a counter and sometimes even under CCTV surveillance. “They get used to dining in communal settings or with tourists - rather than as a family around their own table. All of this means a loss of dignity. On a practical level it can inhibit other important parts of children’s lives such as free play and completing homework.” The research found that all families interviewed shared a bedroom, and just one of the ten families surveyed were provided with breakfast and dinner in their emergency accommodation. All parents highlighted that their children’s food was a priority for them and that they went to considerable efforts in challenging circumstances to provide for them. This was clearly shown by parents who always tried to provide fruit for their children to ensure they received vitamins.  The key recommendations of the research include: Rules and regulations in relation to the use of kitchens and eating facilities across all emergency accommodation for families need to be flexible to meet the different routines and need for privacy for families and to help avoid ‘institutionalisation’ arising from extended stays in emergency accommodation. All emergency accommodation must provide a kitchen table in a private and appropriately sized space. The challenges families face in the preparation of nutritious meals are primarily due to practical barriers and restricted facilities, rather than any lack of awareness of healthy eating. All emergency accommodation must provide a kitchen table in a private and appropriately-sized space. The challenges families face in the preparation of nutritious meals are primarily due to practical barriers and restricted facilities, rather than any lack of awareness of healthy eating. A set of standards in relation to any premises defined as family emergency accommodation. While the Department of Housing and the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) have emphasised the range of improved facilities that will be available in Family Hubs, no standard framework has been published to set out minimum standards to apply to the operation of Hubs. Rebuilding Ireland should outline this. Emergency accommodation must be a temporary measure. No matter what improvements are made in the physical quality and access to services in emergency accommodation, living there still has a detrimental impact on the health and well-being of family members. Over time, poor nutrition can lead to a decline in general health and mental health of families. The most effective improvement in the provision of emergency accommodation is to ensure that it is for the shortest time possible, through the provision of secure and affordable homes. Focus Ireland’s family team works hard with Dublin Region Homeless Executive to support families and children who are homeless. The Focus Ireland Advice and Information services based in Dublin and elsewhere are funded by a range of statutory and non-statutory funders. The service plays a vital role in preventing families and individuals becoming homeless. This new report comes at a time of change in the policy guiding the provision of family emergency homeless accommodation as up to 600 families are due to be moved into family hub accommodation. The DRHE has indicated that family hubs will feature permanent on-site support services (in some cases 24/7) and access to cooking and laundry facilities. Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said: “The report underlined the fact that the longer the stays in emergency accommodation, the more difficult it can be for families to move on from homelessness to independent living. We are repeating our call for a dedicated sub-strategy to address family homelessness that includes a target of supporting all families out of homelessness within six months and also providing a range of supports to avert the potentially devastating effects on the children involved.” To read the full report, visit: -Ends-

Friday, 11 August 2017

CÚRAM PhD Candidate Publishes New Research on Modified Implantable Electrode Devices Used in Deep Brain Stimulation Catalina Vallejo, a PhD candidate at CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, has recently published the results of her work in the prestigious journal Advanced Functionalised Materials (AFM). Ms Vallejo’s research focuses on the modification of implantable electrode systems to improve their performance when used, for example, in neural recording and in deep brain stimulation in patients with neurological disease such as dystonia and Parkinson’s disease. This research provides a useful benchmark for anodization conditions for further studies with neural microelectrodes, micropatterning, and biochemical functionalisation. Catalina Vallejo’s research has shown that anodization offers the ability to modify ITO films and may provide an easier approach to the generation of electrode coatings with differential regions of charge conductance and cellular function capacities. It can be hypothesized that anodization with varying current densities may be employed to deposit insulator and charge carrier regions on a single electrode system, providing cytocompatible and functional coatings for implantable thin-film ITO devices. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) involves implanting stimulating electrodes into the brain. Catalina’s work explored the development of a coating for these electrodes, using a bench-top electrochemical process to formulate anodized indium tin oxide (ITO) films with altered roughness, conducting profiles, and thickness. In addition, Ms Vallejo examined the influence of these anodized films on neural cell adhesion, proliferation, and function, and showed that the compatibility of the coating with brain tissue can be altered by varying the anodization current density. She also showed how the films produced with a specific current density, increased primary neural cell survival, modulation of glial scar formation, and promotion of neural network activity when in situ in the brain. The modification of implantable electrodes for neural stimulation has been a major focus of neural engineering over the past five years. “A common occurrence following electrode implantation is the formation of a glial ‘scar’ around the implant”, explains Catalina. “This can accelerate neural loss, increase the barriers to the flow of the electrical signal to where it’s needed in the brain and so compromises the efficacy of a stimulating/recording system in the brain. My research aimed to develop a way to improve the efficacy of these devices, resulting in a better outcome for patients.” Traditionally, chemically inert conductors such as gold, platinum, and iridium, as well as semiconductors such as silicon, have been widely employed as electrode systems in both clinical and research settings. Recently, however, non-metallic electrically conducting biomaterials, including inherently conducting polymers and polymer composites have been explored as neuroelectrode alternatives in an effort to promote chronic functionality and enhanced biocompatibility. Catalina’s journey through her PhD was not without its challenges. “During my first year, I was learning the basics of electrochemistry and electrodeposition and I initially intended on making electrodeposited conducting polymer films onto the surface of the ITO. I was using a very old Potentiostat, a Princeton Applied Research electrochemical Potentiostat / Galvanostat model 263A running Verastudio software. After almost a full years work, I came to understand that Potentiostat had reversed the electrode configuration/connections. This resulted in the anodization of the ITO films and not in the electrodeposition of the conducting polymer – the opposite of what I wanted to achieve.” Commenting on Catalina’s work, Dr Manus Biggs, Principal Investigator at CÚRAM said: “Catalina is extremely dedicated and at the time the ITO process was confusing, frustrating and quite demotivating for her, but in the end we have learned a lot from this. A research career is full of enlightening errors, and this process was crucial in helping to illuminate some of the bases of her work in conducting polymers, and eventually resulted in the development of a process to formulate these anodized ITO films.” Congratulating Catalina on her work, Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM said: “Ultimately, what we are trying to do at CÚRAM is to improve quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses through the development of new and enhanced implants and devices. It’s fantastic to see how our PhD candidates are contributing significantly to the knowledge base in this area.” To read the full paper entitled ‘Preparation of Cytocompatible ITO Neuroelectrodes with Enhanced Electrochemical Characteristics Using a Facile Anodic Oxidation Process’ in the Advanced Functionalised Materials journal, visit: -Ends-

Events Calendar

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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The public are invited to a fascinating public lecture of a winter expedition with the German icebreaker “Polarstern” to Antarctica. The talk will be delivered by Professor Peter Lemke of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz-Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Germany on Wednesday, 14 September, at 7.30pm in the Colm O’hEocha Theatre in the Arts Millenium Building at NUI Galway. Professor Lemke has participated in nine polar expeditions with the German research icebreaker “Polarstern”, and has collections of stunning photographs depicting the Antarctic landscape and intriguing experiences to share. He is visiting Galway to participate in the Atlantic Ocean Climate Scholars Programme which is a week-long intensive, accredited workshop examining how climate and oceans interact, with particular examples from the Atlantic Ocean and higher latitudes. The lecture is open to members of the public and is part of a workshop organised by Dr Pauhla McGrane of the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART) being held in Galway, from 12-19 September,offered to international postgraduate students of marine, atmosphere and climate-related sciences. “Polar regions play an important role for our climate, but direct observations are difficult to obtain and can only be achieved with greatest effort. This is especially true in wintertime” said Professor Lemke. “Severe blizzards, being trapped between thick ice floes and forced to drift with the ice, the darkness of the polar night and temperatures around minus 30°C. This presentation will take you along on an extraordinary winter expedition into the Antarctic Ocean. It shows the beauty of the frozen ocean, presents some insight into polar and climate research, and demonstrates everyday life on a research icebreaker,” he continued. High latitudes have received attention recently because of significant changes in the atmosphere, sea ice, and ocean, and on land, especially in the Arctic. The surface air temperature in the Arctic has increased about twice as fast as the global air temperature. The Arctic sea-ice extent in summer has decreased by 35% since 1979, and the sea-ice thickness during late summer has declined in the Central Arctic by about 40% since 1958. A warming has also been observed at depth in the Arctic Ocean and the Southern Ocean. But surprisingly there is no negative trend observed in the Antarctic sea ice. Both, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass, and the sea level is rising. Most of these observed trends are in agreement with warming scenarios performed with coupled climate models, which indicate an amplified response in high latitudes to increased greenhouse gas concentrations. But details of the complex interaction between atmosphere, sea ice and ocean, and the impacts on the ecosystem and the human society are still only marginally understood. Results will be shown from the latest Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and from a winter expedition the speaker has lead into the ice-covered Weddell Sea (Antarctica). Dr Pauhla McGrane, coordinator of SMART said: “We are delighted that Proffessor Lemke has agreed to provide his unique insight into carrying out climate research in hostile polar environments, particulaly when accompanied by such beautiful stark images. This is especially relevant as this year we will run the second North South Atlantic Training Transect on-board the RV Polarstern from Germany to South Africa which will train 24 postgraduate students, including seven Irish students, in researching climate, ocean and atmospheric interactions at sea. These innovative offshore international collaboarations, developed with AWI, the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) and funded by the Nippon foundation are essential in developing excellent climate and ocean scientists to measure and understand our changing planet”. Professor Lemke continues to work on the observation of climate processes in atmosphere, sea ice and ocean and their simulation in numerical models for the polar components of the climate system. On six expeditions on Polarstern he acted as chief scientist.  For more than 30 years he served on many national and international committees on polar and climate research. He was the Coordinating Lead Author for Chapter 4 (Observations: Changes in Snow, Ice and Frozen Ground) of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report published in 2007. The IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Al Gore in 2007. For the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC published in 2013 Proffessor Lemke worked as Review Editor of Chapter 4 and as Lead Author of the Technical Summary. All members of the public are welcome and refreshments will be served afterwards. The Atlantic Ocean Climate Scholars Programme is a collaboaration between SMART, NUI Galway, AWI and the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) that is funded by the Nippon foundation under NF POGO Regional Training fund.  -ends-