We are over half way through the Level 5 restriction period and we would like to commend your resilience and the continued support shown for your fellow colleagues over the last few weeks through the #thankacolleague initiative and other RCSI community group networks. Many thanks also to those who took part in the first ‘Coffee Roulette’ event last Friday. It was heartwarming to get to chat with some colleagues who we haven’t seen in recent months or who only recently joined our RCSI community. The first session was a great success, with 52 colleagues joining us from across the College. Following some very positive feedback from the first session, we will be running Coffee Roulette for the next few Friday mornings at 10am, to give staff an opportunity to socialise with colleagues they might not work directly with. The idea behind Coffee Roulette is that you will be randomly assigned in to groups of three or four, for a virtual informal chat and coffee. From the feedback received, colleagues enjoyed the random assignment into groups and the informal nature of the session. If you have not already, we would encourage you to sign up for Coffee Roulette. So come take a spin on the Coffee Roulette wheel and join Coffee Roulette this morning, at 10am! You can join the session through this link. Look out on WorkVivo for more details about future Coffee Roulette sessions.
In this week’s ‘team spotlight’ piece we will hear from Dr. Orla Watters on behalf of the PD-MitoQUANT team and how she organised colleagues from the rest of the Physiology and Medical Physics Department to create an amazing RCSI tribute photo during the lockdown!
PD-MitoQUANT (www.pdmitoquant.eu) is an Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) project that brings together partners from Universities, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), and the patient advocacy organisation Parkinson’s UK. Our PD-MitoQUANT research team in RCSI consists of Prof. Jochen Prehn (PI & project coordinator), Dr. Niamh Connolly, Mr. Sandeep Chenna, Dr. Niraj Khemka & myself – Dr. Orla Watters. Since Covid-19 hit our shores Niamh, Niraj and Sandeep, who work primarily on computational modelling, have relocated to the safety of their homes. I am what is termed a ‘wet-lab’ based researcher, so have had to split my time between working on-site and at my home office (aka bedroom!). Luckily, through a joint effort by H&S, Estates and our lab managers in the Department (Ina Woods & Luise Halang) the ‘wet-lab’ research has been able to proceed on-site, albeit in a much quieter environment – It has taken a while to become comfortable working in an eerily quiet lab!
I miss the face-to-face professional and social contact with the PD-MitoQUANT group and our colleagues in the Department of Physiology & Medical Physics but we have been doing our best to be in regular contact via MS teams. We have Departmental meetings every Friday afternoon to catch up on research activities. Patsy Connolly, our Departmental admin and operations manager, has set up a ‘Physiology Coffee Dock’ where we can pop in (virtually) for an informal chat before the Departmental meeting. It is a great way to help us get that ‘Friday feeling’ at the end of a workweek, especially for those working from home.
A few weeks back our PD-MitoQUANT project management team (Pintail) suggested that we gather a group to take part in the VHI Virtual Women’s Mini Marathon this year to awareness of our Parkinson’s research in RCSI. As this is a charity event, we also decided to raise funds for Parkinson’s Association of Ireland. After a shout out at our weekly departmental meeting, we managed to gather some honorary PD-MitoQUANT troops for the event (Helena Bonner, Patsy Connolly, Elisabeth Jirstrom, Elena Langa and Giorgia Conte). As this was a virtual event, we could plan our own route, so those of us who live near RCSI decided to have a bit of fun and traced out our 10km route to form the letters ‘RCSI’. As we weaved our way through the streets of Dublin’s fair city on Friday, 2nd Oct., we kept in contact with the other members of our team in Offaly, Sligo and Meath to cheer each other on! We were blessed with the weather all over Ireland that day as we all completed our 10km under the autumn sunshine. Despite being physically apart, this fun event was a great way to bond as a team and raising money for Parkinson’s Association of Ireland was an added bonus. I would like to thank every one of you who supported the team, allowing us to raise €770 for a very worthwhile charity.
The arrival of Covid-19 also scuppered our plans to hold a public information evening at the start of April in RCSI to highlight ongoing and future Parkinson’s research in Ireland. The PD-MitoQUANT team invested many weeks of planning and organisation into this event so naturally we were all disappointed to have to postpone the event. With the realisation that the opportunity to host this event in person may not become a reality for a long time, we decided to move the event online. We have organised, over three consecutive Thursday evenings (12th, 19th, 26th Nov) a series of short and lively talks from representatives from research laboratories, the clinic and industry, along with insights from those living with Parkinson’s. It is exciting to be involved in this event. If you have an interest in learning about Parkinson’s and our research, please register for this event (for FREE!) at https://bit.ly/3ja826d.
Reading the various WorkVivo posts about the great charity fundraising and support that some of our RCSI colleagues have got involved in over the last few months have been so inspiring. Well done to all those who donated to help raise funds with Orla and her team for Parkinson’s Association of Ireland. We know there are many of our staff who have family caring responsibilities and how much harder and worrying this responsibility can be in our current level of restrictions. No one should have to care alone. We encourage you to reach out to support groups either internally through the EDI’s Family and Carers network, or externally through the various support groups and organisations such as Family Carers Ireland. Family Carers Ireland run a virtual Carers’ Coffee Club for family carers every Thursday from 11am to 11:30am where health and wellbeing experts offer support and advice and take questions via Facebook Live. There is no need to register and those wishing to join in should simply visit facebook.com/familycarers on Thursdays at 11am. All previous sessions can be viewed on this page. For more information on this initiative or for general support you can contact the Freephone National Careline 1800 24 07 24.
November has been long dubbed ‘Movember’ as men choose to sport moustaches to spark conversation and raise awareness for men’s mental and physical health issues. If you are currently growing a facial furry friend to help raise awareness and support for men’s health issues we would love to hear from you! Post a picture of your facial achievements on this space with your chosen charity. To mark this month and International Men’s Day on the 19th November, the HSE in partnership with Men’s Health Forum in Ireland and the Centre for Men’s Health in IT Carlow, are running a webinar on this date focussed on ‘Men’s Mental Health in these Challenging Times’. It will highlight recent research and promote important messages for men in relation to their mental health. Their line up of speakers include inputs on farmers, men who attend men’s sheds and young men, as well as a discussion panel with representatives from the GAA, SpunOut, Mental Health Ireland, Healthy Ireland in the Department of Health and the HSE. Please see the link here for registration if you would like to join. The EDI team also run an RCSI Men’s Shed space on WorkVivo which you can join here.
In place of a poem this week we thought we would share this important message with you. Stay safe and stay hopeful for better days to come.
Regards and thanks
Barry & the HR Team