THE Forum focuses on key health conditions, diseases impacting human outcomes globally

In partnership with the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, the THE University Impact Forum gathered nearly 1700 leaders, subject experts and delegates from higher education institutions, including Angela Piatova and Vladimir Sytin of the Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, on July 7-8, 2021 to share research ideas and solutions to address the key health conditions and diseases that impact on human outcomes around the world. There were 20 sessions including complimentary desk yoga and guided mindfulness sessions with the British organization CSSC Sports & Leisure.

It is worth noting that the event shared the exclusive insight into the metrics and methodology behind the THE Impact Rankings 2021, with a focus on SDG3 “Good health and well-being”, which was provided by Duncan Ross, THE chief data officer. Asked by Vladimir Sytin if THE experts measure health related publications in other languages, say Ukrainian, not English, Mr. Ross recommended supplementing a publication in a local language by a summary in English.

At the session entitled “Partnerships for improved global health”, it was pointed out that the achievement of targets under SDG3 will require a significant increase in the capacity of healthcare education institutions worldwide. This masterclass explored the potential for education and research partnerships to address global issues. In particular, Ruairi Brugha, emeritus professor in the Department of Public Health and Epidemiology at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Linda Chokotho, orthopaedic surgeon and research coordinator at the College of Medicine, University of Malawi, Samantha Holloway, reader in the Centre for Medical Education at the Cardiff University, Stella Itungu, chief operating officer at the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa, and Eric O’Flynn, programme director of education, training and advocacy at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, discussed some of the successes and challenges of this approach and considered best practices in the area.

The session “Water and sanitation for better health” examined challenges and opportunities associated with achieving SDG6 “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. In this masterclass, European experts in the sustainable treatment of wastewater and drinking water, namely, Despo Fatta-Kassinos, professor at the University of Cyprus, Pilar Fernandez-Ibañez, lecturer in engineering science at the Ulster University, and Javier Marugán, professor of chemical engineering and director of the Wastewater Treatment Plant and Water Analytical Laboratory at the Rey Juan Carlos University, demonstrated how people could not hope to achieve SDG3 without first achieving SDG6.

Using nurse-led wound-care research as a case study, the session “Collaboration and capacity: Research for improved patient outcomes” heard international perspectives on the role of global collaboration in enhancing research capacity and paving the way for interventions that can lead to better health and wellbeing globally. The panel included Pinar Avsar, senior postdoctoral researcher at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dimitri Beeckman, professor of nursing science at the Ghent University and the Örebro University, Wendy Chaboyer, professor and director of the National Health and Medical Research Council at the Griffith University, and Declan Patton, director of nursing and midwifery research at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

The masterclass “Innovation, impact and internationalisation: The RCSI-Soochow experience” examined the path towards establishing a robust partnership between RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and Soochow University China, with a focus on innovation and impact in health sciences. This session also discussed the development of undergraduate and postgraduate research programmes through a 2+2 model with the awarding of dual degrees which are certain to drive good health and wellbeing in both countries and enhance global competitiveness. The panel consisted of six experts, namely, Helena Kelly, associate professor in the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences; Darran O’Connor, associate professor at the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at RCSI; Jochen Prehn, professor and chairman of the Department of Physiology and Medical Physics at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences; John Waddington, emeritus professor at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and a member of the Royal Irish Academy; Zheng Ying, professor in the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Soochow University; and Xuechu Zhen, dean of the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Soochow University.

The session “New approaches to student mental health” explored the growing concern that students with moderate-severe level mental health needs may fall through the cracks of the education and health sector for a number of reasons and address the increasing recognition for a more systematised approach, advocating for a whole institutional approach and the establishment of clear pathways to specialised care for those who need them. The panel included Dinesh Bhugra, professor emeritus of mental health and cultural diversity at King’s College London; Michele Hill, psychiatrist and university lead for student mental health and well-being at the University College Cork; Prof. Steve West, president, vice-chancellor and CEO of the University of the West of England; and Anna Whitaker, welfare officer of the student union and medical student at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

In the masterclass “Optimising health and well-being using lifestyle medicine and positive psychology”, leading international experts in lifestyle medicine and positive psychology, namely, Beth Frates, president-elect of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Trudy Meehan, senior clinical psychologist and lecturer in the Centre for Positive Psychology and Health at RCSI, Ryan Niemiec, education director of the VIA Institute on Character, and Christian van Nieuwerburgh, executive director of international growth coaching and professor of coaching and positive psychology at the University of East London, explored the contribution of these disciplines to optimising health and well-being. Participants in this session discussed using a broad conceptualisation of health and well-being, and evidence-based approaches to empowering individuals to alter their risk profiles, optimise health, build resilience and create conditions in which they could flourish.

The panel at the session “Innovation in health and well-being: The next generation” discussed examples of universities using the latest technological innovations to transform, examine and share research to tackle and fight global health risks and to achieve the SDGs. Specifically, the session heard views from Prof. Suzanne Chambers, dean of the Faculty of Health at the University of Technology Sydney; Sally Cudmore, interim director of innovation at the University College Cork; David Henshall, professor of molecular physiology and neuroscience in the Department of Physiology & Medical Physics at the RCSI University of Medicine & Health Sciences and director of the FutureNeuro SFI Research Centre for Chronic & Rare Neurological Disorders, based in Dublin, Ireland; and Bill Mezzanotte, executive vice-president, head of R&D and chief medical officer of the biotech company CSL Behring.

At the session “Partnerships for better health and well-being”, the panel of experts discussed their experience of effective partnerships and demonstrated how their higher education institutions’ most important collaborations with civil society were having an impact and supporting progress towards achieving the SDG 3 aims by 2030. The panel included Tom Arnold, Irish Government’s special envoy on food systems to the European Commission; Hilde Depraetere, director of operations at the European Vaccine Initiative; Prof. Margaret Gyapong, director of the Centre for Health Policy and Implementation Research at the University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ghana; and Samuel McConkey, associate professor and head of the department of international health and tropical medicine at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Participants in the session “Prioritising post-pandemic health and well-being” considered the scholarly and leadership roles that the education and healthcare sectors could play in operationalising this biopsychosocial conceptualisation of health and in empowering individuals, communities and society in general to take a more proactive approach to optimise health in its broadest sense. The session heard views from Steve Leventhal, CEO of the company CorStone; Cheryl Regehr, provost and vice-president of the University of Toronto; and Christian van Nieuwerburgh.

As universities have a vital role in educating healthcare professionals, developing new forms and ways to cure diseases, improving healthcare, innovating on technology and transforming social care, Prof. Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, and Phil Baty, THE chief knowledge officer, were discoursing upon how higher education institutions could have a more direct and impactful connection with society during the session “The role of universities in addressing global healthcare challenges”.

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