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Introducing an Idea

HEPA Organising Committee

Professor Suzanne McDonough


Professor Suzanne McDonough is a Professor and Head of RCSI School of Physiotherapy, is an honorary Professor at the University of Otago NZ, and a visiting Professor with the University of Southampton. Suzanne obtained her undergraduate degree in physiotherapy at University College Dublin (UCD) in 1989; was awarded her PhD in neurophysiology from Newcastle University, UK, in 1995; and a higher diploma in healthcare (acupuncture) in 2002 from UCD.


Suzanne is interested in how to support people with health conditions to change their physical activity behaviour in order to manage and protect health and wellbeing.  She has carried out a number of randomised controlled trials on walking and sedentary behaviour in people with a range of clinical conditions.  As part of these trials Suzanne has developed training programmes for clinicians. This has informed a postgraduate module on delivery of physical activity interventions for people with health conditions, see here for more details. She is currently working with Arthritis Ireland to develop an intervention to support people with arthritis to maintain their physical activity levels long-term.  Suzanne is also co-lead of the HEPA Europe working group on HEPA promotion in health care settings, see here for more detail.  Suzanne is the lead for RCSI Healthy Campus, a national initiative to support Universities to be health enhancing environments.


Suzanne’s full profile can be found here

Professor Anne Hickey

Anne Hickey

Professor Hickey is a health psychologist and professor of psychology in the School of Population Health in RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences. Professor Hickey’s research is particularly focussed on research with stroke patient and carer populations, and in the area of adverse events associated with hospital care. Professor Hickey is Principal Investigator on the HRB Applied Partnership Award: Maximising the Quality of Stroke Care in Ireland – Development of a National Stroke Audit. Professor Hickey also leads the StrokeCog study, a programme of research focussed on cognitive impairment and dementia after stroke. Professor Hickey served as co-Director of the SPHeRE (Structured Population and Health-services Research Education) Programme, a national structured PhD training programme in population health and health-services research, from its inception in 2013 to the end of 2020. Professor Hickey is Deputy Dean for Positive Education at RCSI


Annes full profile can be found here

Dr Grace O'Malley

Grace O'Malley

Dr. Grace O'Malley leads the Obesity Research and Care Group in RCSI. She holds a joint position in the School of Physiotherapy, Division of Population Health Sciences, RCSI and at the Child and Adolescent Weight Management Service, Children's Health Ireland at Temple Street. She is a clinician-scientist working in the field of childhood obesity research and practice. She graduated from Trinity College Dublin as a Physiotherapist in 2004 and thereafter commenced working clinically in paediatrics at Temple Street Children's University Hospital, Dublin. She was awarded a scholarship from Trinity College to undertake a research M.Sc. (2006) to explore how obesity affects physical fitness in children and adolescents. In 2008, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to research the pathophysiology of Type-2 diabetes in children with obesity at the Yale School of Medicine (USA) and in 2011 she commenced a PhD at University College Cork, investigating the treatment of paediatric obesity with novel interventions. This research encompassed a series of patient-orientated and health service delivery studies and led to the establishment of Ireland's first multidisciplinary clinical service for paediatric and adolescent obesity. In 2017 Grace joined the team at RCSI as part of the Strategic Academic Programme where her research focuses on clinical, eHealth and public health aspects of paediatric obesity.

Benny Cullen


Benny Cullen is Director of Research and Innovation at Sport Ireland where he leads a multi-disciplinary team which carries out strategic research, evaluation and innovation to inform Irish sports policy and national investment strategies. In previous roles Benny worked in the NGB sector and also managed the Sport Ireland LSP Unit. 

Benny and his team do large amounts of formative research and evaluation which underpins the development of innovative solutions to the challenges sports policy seeks to address.  His team work in close collaboration with the other Sport Ireland Units, the National Governing Bodies of Sport, the Local Sports Partnerships and the third level institutions of Ireland. 

When not doing research, Benny loves being active in the outdoors with family and friends.  At weekends you’ll most likely find him on a mountain either kayaking with friends, hiking with family or mountain biking with his wife and young son.

David Harris

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David Harris is the Sports Centre Manager at RCSI and a member of the Healthy Campus network and Exercise is Medicine on campus committee. With over 25 years of experience in the leisure sector, David has consistently demonstrated a commitment to advancing the well-being of communities and individuals through the promotion of physical activity and healthy living. With a Master's degree in Health Promotion and a background in International Business and Leisure Management David has a deep understanding of the academic and practical aspects of promoting health and well-being within communities and organisations.

David's professional values revolve around the principles of health, wellness, and community development. He is passionate about leveraging his expertise to inspire positive change and well-being within RCSI and driving improvement in engagement with physical activity to assist students in balancing academic workload and contributing to healthier, happier and successful students. David’s team are actively involved in teaching practical modules in Lifestyle Medicine as well as collaborating with Physiotherapy students to enhance their knowledge of programme design.

Sarah O'Brien


As National Lead for the Healthy Eating and Active Living Programme, Sarah is responsible for ensuring that the implementation of key national policies, Get Ireland Active: National Physical Activity Plan and Healthy Weight for Ireland: Obesity Policy and Action is supported across the health services.  Sarah has a background in paediatric nursing, health promotion and health service management, with a track record of delivering on innovation and change initiatives.    Her current role involves collaborating with colleagues across the health services in areas such as primary care, acute services, disability services, mental health services as well as with external partners on how we can bring a health and wellbeing focus to everything we do, particularly in relation to promoting healthy diet and physical activity.  And leading the development of training, policy and standards, resources, programmes and communications to support colleagues integrate this into their everyday work.   Of particular relevance is the programme of work Sarah is leading to design and subsequently support implementation of a physical activity pathway in healthcare model in the Irish public healthcare system.

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