Monday, September 28, 2020

Memory clinic for people with intellectual disability


It was great to see Trinity College Dublin's news page cover a recent webinar from the National Intellectual Disability Memory Service at Tallaght Hospital. In addition to Professors Mary McCarron and Seán Kennelly, who established the service, the webinar had the special guest speaker Dr Juan Fortea, who spoke of some of the intersectional aspects of health inequities for people ID, as well as highlighting his work with the Down Alzheimer Barcelona Neuroimaging Initiative and international consortia. He mentioned that there appears to be more funding for research on this topic in the United States, although the incidence of Down Syndrome is higher in Europe. He also spoke about the value of research in enhancing quality of life for people with Down Syndrome, and highlighted that barriers to participation in research could well be considered a form of discrimination against people with Down Syndrome.    

The National Intellectual Disability Memory Service will work in assessment, diagnosis, post-diagnostic support, and research. Assessing any patient for dementia is complicated, but this is particularly true in the context of intellectual disability, where physicians cannot assume a typical baseline level of cognitive performance or independence in daily living. The onset of dementia is younger on average in people with ID, so the potential to capture baseline cognitive performance and independence at a younger age (e.g. mid-thirties) will allow for a clearer picture of any decline. Professor Seán Kennelly highlighted the importance of appropriate disclosure of diagnosis, as well as how post-diagnostic support should take into account lifestyle factors such as sleep and physical activity.   

The National Intellectual Disability Memory Service aims to develop satellite clinics across Ireland, so patients from around the country will not necessarily have to travel to Tallaght in Dublin for assessment. Professor Mary McCarron also underlined the value of telemedicine in helping to address equity of access, particularly in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent guide to memory clinics highlighted that there were no memory clinics for the general population in the Northwest of Ireland, despite this region having the highest prevalence of dementia, and to the best of my knowledge there is no national memory clinic for the general population. Notwithstanding that general memory clinics will see a higher number of patients, the NIDMS is clearly setting a very high standard in this arena.

The webinar is available at the NIMDS webpage: 

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Irish Research Staff Association: meeting with Minister Simon Harris

I recently became Chair of the Irish Research Staff Association (IrishRSA), which represents research staff across the island of Ireland. My colleague Dr Rosarii Griffin and I had the chance to meet with Minister Simon Harris and his team at the Department of Further & Higher Education, Research, Innovation & Science.

The meeting was very constructive, covering various topics affecting Irish research staff, with the precarity of researcher careers being a key issue underpinning the discussion. We discussed  researcher representation on decision making bodies, and the need for researchers to be consulted on the content of the national Researcher Career Framework.

Another key point was the importance of collating reliable data on researcher numbers & career trajectories, which is required to inform policy with regard to research careers.

We also discussed future research policy, Horizon Europe, impacts of Brexit, UNESCO commitments and full-cost extensions to projects interrupted by COVID-19. We look forward to continued consultation with the Minister on these topics and to supporting the Irish HEI research performing sector.

The IrishRSA consists of members from TCD, UCC, UCD, NUIG, MU and RCSI but actively welcomes research staff from all HEIs across the island of Ireland to contact us and join the association (

Many thanks to Minister’s office for the photograph. Left to right: Dr Rosarii Griffin (UCC, Treasurer of Irish RSA), Minister Simon Harris (Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science), Dr Andrew P. Allen (TCD, Chair of Irish RSA)

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