• Gillian O'Neill

“I’ll tell me Ma when I go home” – sharing insights from the CATCH Orientation Conference 2017

CATCH Orientation Conference

CATCH’s first conference was held in Ireland last week at University College Dublin, and while the weather may not have always been on our side, what an event it was!

Bringing together all the members of the CATCH Innovative Training Network for the very first time, this event was a great platform for communicating, learning and sharing thought-provoking insights about research in connected health and cancer rehabilitation.

Working Together… to Bridge the Gap in Cancer Care Through Technology-Supported Physical Exercise

Having joined the CATCH ITN as an Early Stage Researcher (ESR number 3!) in March of this year, I have spent a large part of my time getting to know the literature around my PhD topic: “Digital Health Strategies for supporting wellbeing in cancer”. I was looking forward to the orientation conference to be able to meet all the other ESRs, supervisors and collaborators and learn about the different research taking place within CATCH. This event also enabled me to understand where my research fits in within the wider context of the CATCH programme and consider how, as a team, we can develop technology-supported physical exercise solutions to support cancer rehabilitation.


What certainly became apparent during the conference was the extent to which the impact of each of the ESRs’ individual research will provide insight into the CATCH ITN workstreams be it by understanding the problem, designing and testing technology-enabled bridging solutions, or offering routes to market. Thanks to this European Industrial Doctorate programme it will be possible to collaborate on developing solutions by learning from each other’s differing experiences, engaging in interdisciplinary work within the industry, academic and clinical settings. However the potential implications and applications of such research would have little impact without the active involvement of patients.

Working Together… FOR the Patients and WITH the Patients

handshake - working together

A theme that resonated across the conference presentations and workshop was that of patient-centred research and practice. This is central to any health-related research. Indeed, if patients’ needs are poorly understood or overlooked, they will not receive the right care and the solutions brought to market will fail.

Importantly patient-centred research goes beyond merely engaging patients in participating in research trials. A number of initiatives now exist and continue to be developed to engage patients across the different stages of the research process, one example being patient representation on ethical committee boards as part of the Patient and Public Involvement initiative in the United Kingdom. Patient Advocacy Groups, among their many activities, also promote the empowerment and involvement of patients in the development and implementation of health-related policies. However it is also down to each of us, as researchers, to ensure that we are gaining insight from patients directly. Curiosity may have killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back. The more we meet with patients, are curious and ask questions, the more we can understand how we can help.

So while it can be easy in research to get lost in the theoretical discourse we find in the literature, let’s not forget to tell our Ma, but also our friends and colleagues to take the time to listen to, engage with, and promote the patients’ voice in cancer research!

A Thank You..

I want to thank all the organisers of the event, as well as the presenters, facilitators, patient advocates, and all the attendees for making CATCH’s first conference such an inspiring few days - I will endeavour to maintain the enthusiastic momentum that was built there!

#CATCH #cancer #research #conference #UCD

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