Apply for a place on the Irish Clinical Academic Training Programme

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ICAT programme now open for applications - Apply by 24 September 2019

The Irish Clinical Academic Training (ICAT) Programme is a unique all-Ireland clinician scientist training programme designed to support future academic leaders. In addition to completing Higher Specialist Training, ICAT Fellows undertake a PhD in one of six partner universities on the island of Ireland.

The ICAT programme is now open for applications. The deadline for applications for 2020 fellowships is 5pm on 24 September 2019.

Applicants must be enrolled (or be eligible to enrol) in a Higher Specialist Training programme in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.

Interviews will take place in Dublin on 4 - 5 December 2019. Successful candidates will take up their fellowships in July 2020.

The ICAT Programme is funded by Wellcome, the Health Research Board, the HSE National Doctors Training and Planning and the Health and Social Care Research and Development Division, Northern Ireland, and the partner higher education institutions.

Supporting future academic leaders

Three doctors on RCPI Higher Specialist Training programmes commenced their Fellowship posts under the prestigious Wellcome – Health Research Board Irish Clinical Academic Training Programme in July this year:

  • Cathal O’Connor, Dermatology
  • Conor Grant, Infectious Diseases
  • Dearbhla Doherty, Haematology

We spoke to all three of these fellows about their plans for their Fellowship - see interviews below.

Dr Dearbhla Doherty, Haematology

Dr Dearbhla Doherty graduated from University College Dublin in 2014 and commenced Higher Specialist Training in Haematology in 2019. Her area of research interest is in haemostasis and vascular biology. As an ICAT Fellow, Dearbhla hopes to further investigate the molecular and genetic basis of Low Von Willebrand Factor levels.

What spurred you to apply for the ICAT programme?

From early on in my postgraduate years, I was excited by the idea of a career combining both clinical and academic work. When I heard about the ICAT programme, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to do a PhD in tandem with my clinical training in Haematology. ICAT offers a great environment for a PhD student - world-class supervisors, broad training opportunities in research methodology and a peer group of enthusiastic fellows.

What will your research/PhD focus on?

I am currently exploring research topics of interest. My PhD will most likely be focused on the pathophysiology of Low VWF, aiming to explore the cellular and genetic mechanisms for the disease.

Are you going to be working with anyone really inspiring/whose work you find exciting?

I will be working with Professor James O'Donnell and the Haemostasis Research Group in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The RCSI laboratory is a leader in the field of vascular biology internationally and is linked with a number of renowned collaborators worldwide. I'm really excited to be joining such a dynamic group with such high quality research outputs.

Dr Cathal O'Connor, Dermatology

Dr Cathal O'Connor graduated from University College Cork in 2013. Having completed Basic Specialist Training in Paediatrics and Adult Medicine, he entered Higher Specialist Training in Dermatology. His research interests include atopic dermatitis, inflammatory dermatoses, and genocutaneous disease. Cathal looks forward to expanding his research interests in preventative dermatology and novel therapeutic strategies for atopic dermatitis.

What spurred you to apply for the ICAT programme?

I have had a keen interest in academic research since undertaking various projects as a medical student in University College Cork. In my Basic Specialist Training with the RCPI I was fortunate to work with world-leading clinician scientists who were also ICAT supervisors. They encouraged me to pursue a career in academic medicine.

Dermatology is an excellent specialty for potential academic clinicians, with its mixture of basic science, immunology, microbiology, genomics, and much more. Dermatological diseases such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis represent paradigmatic models of inflammation.

ICAT facilitates the genesis, refinement, and completion of innovative research. The major difference between the ICAT programme and a conventional PhD is the collaborative nature of the work, with a high degree of cross-specialty teamwork. I am very grateful for the opportunity to integrate my clinical training and academic research, and I look forward to an exciting programme and output.

What will your research/PhD focus on?

My PhD will investigate the role of the human microbiome in the development of atopic dermatitis. It will be a laboratory-based project in the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, one of the leading microbiome research institutes in the world. It will also be linked to the INFANT centre, a top perinatal research centre. Both institutes are affiliated with University College Cork. There will also be collaboration with other Irish universities and international research centres. I will be working with several inspiring supervisors from the specialties of Dermatology, Paediatrics, Microbiology, and Immunology.

Dr Conor Grant, Infectious Diseases

Dr Conor Grant graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 2013. After obtaining a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 2016 at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, he worked with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). In 2018, Conor commenced Higher Specialist Training in Infectious Diseases. His goals are to address the global health challenges caused by infectious diseases. Specifically, Conor’s research interests are in finding novel diagnostics and host-directed therapies for Tuberculosis by studying TB immunometabolism.

What spurred you to apply for the ICAT programme?

Clinician scientists work both to improve the health of the patient in front of them, and on a broader scale through their research. This exciting prospect encouraged me to pursue research to tackle the underlying problems affecting patients I see every day, working in Infectious Diseases. Seeking an understanding of the root cause of disease, and paths to overcome it, has always motivated me.

The ICAT programme is the best format to becoming a clinician scientist, as it integrates both clinical and academic training so that both clinical and academic skills and connections are maintained throughout the duration. It is also a joy to regularly meet and have the support of peers from different specialities and universities (both north and south), as we navigate our early research careers together.

What will your research/PhD focus on?

My interest is in searching for novel host-directed therapies for tuberculosis by exploring the emerging field of TB/macrophage immunometabolism and trained innate immunity. My hope is that this exciting research might lead to improved treatments for TB, which globally is the leading cause of death by an infective agent, and is becoming more difficult to treat each year.

Are you going to be working with anyone really inspiring/whose work you find exciting?

An advantage of the ICAT programme is that it encourages its fellows to have multiple PhD supervisors. I am lucky to be able to draw from the expertise of Prof. Joseph Keane (TCD) who has been a leader in TB research both in Ireland and internationally. I hope to also have as supervisors Prof. Colm Bergin (TCD), Prof. Luke O'Neill (TCD), Prof. Sam McConkey (RCSI) and others, to benefit from their expertise and support through the coming years.

About the Irish Clinical Academic Training (ICAT) Programme

The ICAT Programme is an integrated programme spanning 6 - 7 years of seamless, mentored academic and clinical training. It is designed to support future academic leaders. Trainees appointed to the programme have access to the best supervisors from research-intensive universities with a biomedical focus that collectively demonstrate research excellence.

The programme is managed by Clinical Research Development Ireland (the new name for Molecular Medicine Ireland), created by the universities to promote collaborative research and education.

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

The first cohort of Fellows was appointed in July 2017.

Following the development of their PhD proposals with their chosen supervisor, ICAT fellows will then register for a full-time PhD in their supervisor’s institution. ICAT fellows will benefit from continuing mentorship throughout the programme and while they complete their PhD and clinical training to CCST.

Read more about the ICAT Programme on their website