By Giulia Parenti & Rachel Stapleton,
MSc in Health Psychology, NUI Galway
On Friday 3rd of March, the Royal College of Surgeon (RCSI) in Dublin hosted the 14th Annual Psychology, Health and Medicine Conference. Each year this conference represents a great opportunity to reflect on the current research trends in health psychology and it provides a stimulating environment networking and forming new collaborations.
Our MSc in Health Psychology class at NUI Galway were supported to attend the Psychology, Health and Medicine conference as a group. We were really excited to attend, and for many of us it was our first conference. Six Masters’ students were able to present a poster on their dissertation projects and one of our classmates, Jane Murphy, also gave an oral presentation of a previous research of hers, which we all wanted to attend to show our support.
The Conference Chair was Dr Frank Doyle, senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at RCSI, who opened the conference together with Professor Hannah McGee, RCSI. The conference opening was followed by the first keynote speaker, Professor Pamela Gallagher from Dublin City University, introduced by Professor David Hevey from Trinity. Professor Gallagher’s keynote was entitled “Living well with the consequences of illness, injury and its treatment” and her extremely compelling presentation described research she has worked on since her undergraduate project on the psychological outcomes of patients living with prosthetic limbs, or as she defined it, “psychoprostethic”. We had never heard about researchers or practitioners working in this area and were amazed by her whole presentation.
The following session was made up of brief oral presentations of recent studies in different areas related to health psychology. Each presentation lasted 15 minutes and presentations were held in four separate rooms. The morning presentations were grouped into four themes: complex interventions, adherence and attendance, social and environmental influences on health, and a symposium on social relationships and health from a bio-behavioural perspective. By organising the presentations into themes, everyone was able to attend seminars on topics they had an interest in, without having to chase presenters around to different rooms. During the adherence and attendance session our wonderful Jane presented on “Habit strength and adherence to oral contraceptives: The role of time and place based cues”.
It was then time for poster viewing and a well-deserved lunch break. In this time we were able to appreciate the work of other researchers presented as posters and even talk to some of them about it. This break was very much needed as it allowed us to create new networks with researchers form different or similar backgrounds but also to reconnect with old friends and colleagues.
During lunch, a tour of the RCSI buildings was also provided which some of us attended, right when we took a group picture! Here you can see who missed the tour, too preoccupied with tea and biscuits.
After high doses of food and coffee, we were all ready for the second half of the day!
The afternoon session could not start better, with Professor Susan Michie from University College London as the first keynote speaker, introduced by Dr Molly Byrne from NUI Galway. Her presentation did not betray expectations and she gave a detailed presentation on “Building the Science of Behaviour Change: The Human Behaviour Change Project“. This on-going innovative project aims to bring together scientists from behavioural, informational and computer background in order to develop an Artificial Intelligence system able to retrieve exact information from the whole scientific behaviour change literature.
The next round of presentations focused on four different themes: chronic illness, challenges in the delivery of health care, weight management and physical activity, and stress and quality of life.
Throughout the day NUI Galway had a strong presence at the conference, both in the poster and oral presentations. The speakers from NUIG included:
- Caragh Flannery on using the Theoretical Domain Framework (TDF) to explore barriers/facilitators to physical activity in pregnancy
- Niamh Gethin on weight regain after bariatric surgery
- Jane Murphyregarding adherence to the oral contraceptive pill
- Hannah Durand onnon-adherence in resistant hypertension; a systematic review,
- Dr Molly Byrne on the core outcomes set for clinical trials of young adults with type 1 diabetes
- Elaine Toomey on fidelity in interventions
- Dr Jenny McSharry on exploring the barriers and facilitators when it comes to attending structured education programmes for diabetes in Ireland.
The final key note speaker was Professor Liam Delaney from UCD, introduced by Professor Anne Hickey from RCSI, who gave a really interesting talk on “Behavioural Economics and Health”. As a subject that we had very little contact with so far in our education, he really managed to break it down into simple terms and make it engaging. Professor Delaney went into the history of economics, and how economics and psychology have progressed alongside each other. He managed to convey the similarities and the differences between the two, and made a really clear case for how the two disciplines can assist each other greatly, particularly in terms of health policy.
At the end of the keynote presentation, we moved on to the closing presentation with details of the conference location for next year (Ulster University, Coleraine), and thanks to all the people who were involved. The most exciting part of this section was the awards; two of which went to home-grown delegates from NUIG! Eimear Morrissey won the Ruth Curtis Postgraduate Excellence in Research Practice award, which was awarded to her in recognition of the outstanding work achieved in advancing the science of health psychology. Dr Jenny McSharry was awarded the Hannah McGee Early Career Investigator Research Excellence award in recognition of the breadth of her contribution to advancing the science of health psychology nationally and internationally. It was a really proud day for us all at NUIG and gave us in the MSc something to aspire to!
All in all, the Psychology, Health and Medicine Conference was an amazing first conference for us as Masters students. It gave us the opportunity to explore the newest research trends and meet experts across many different health psychology areas. We all felt it was the “icing on the cake” to complete our experience of the Masters and gave us real life experience of how challenging and inspiring it is to pursue a career as health psychologists.
Giulia Parenti is a Psychology graduate from Italy who moved to Galway to attend the MSc in Health Psychology. Her dissertation project concerns Coeliac Disease and adherence to a strict gluten-free diet and her main areas of interest are health promotion and meditation and mindfulness techniques in clinical health psychology. She has a strong passion for yoga and eastern disciplines in general.
Rachael Stapleton is currently completing her MSc in Health Psychology in Galway. For her dissertation she is working with Croí, implementing a goal setting intervention to reduce the sedentary behaviour in a group of clinically obese patients. She has a deep interest in the areas of health promotion, health policy and behaviour change.