Pictured at the 9th Public and Patient Involvement Summer School, University of Limerick was Keynote speaker, Simon Denegri
Pictured at the 9th Public and Patient Involvement Summer School, University of Limerick was Keynote speaker, Simon Denegri Pictures: Alan Place
Friday, 21 June 2024

University of Limerick has played host to over 100 delegates at a unique event in Ireland, focusing on empowering patients, carers and the public to actively engage in healthcare research as partners with health researchers.

The 9th UL Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) Summer School featured over 115 participants from local, national and international backgrounds attending the on-campus event this week.

The keynote speaker Simon Denegri OBE, Executive Director of the Academy of Medical Sciences (UK) shared his reflections on how he envisions the future of PPI.

Dr Kim Ozano, Director of the SCL Agency (UK) gave the closing keynote on the theme of ‘Power and Participatory Research’.

There was a wide variety of engaging, interactive workshops and panel discussions and founder of the summer school, Professor Anne MacFarlane – a Co-Director of the Participatory Health Research Unit at UL – said it “which to support researchers, community and patient organisations, students, PPI contributors, funders, health service providers and policy makers to come together for learning, discussion, and networking, and to foster meaningful partnerships.

“By amplifying and nurturing patient voices, we strive for strong patient-centred research in Ireland and beyond – this PPI Summer School has really energised us for the year ahead,” added Professor MacFarlane.

Associate Professor of Primary Healthcare Research at UL and PPI Summer School programme chair, Jon Salsberg said it was “humbling to see the PPI summer school grow year after year. Here we are in our 9th year and the summer school has become a fixture of the PPI landscape in Ireland and beyond. It is so rewarding perennially to welcome a wide range of enthusiastic participants and to be able to attract such a high calibre of presenters and speakers.”

Workshop facilitators included Dr Ruth McMenamin and Martha Killilea from PPI Ignite @ the University of Galway, who reflected: “Good facilitation skills are core to building successful PPI relationships and environments with consideration of equality, diversity and inclusion for all involved. We were delighted to explore this topic with such an enthusiastic group of participants at the UL PPI Summer School”

Panel discussions focused on the important theme of “PPI Impact” and showcased a diverse panel of patients, researchers, policymakers, and community leaders, all engaged in impactful public patient involvement in research, health services and policy.

The Panel Chair was Dr Avril Kennan, CEO of Health Research Charities Ireland who commented: “The UL PPI Summer School is a highlight of the year for those with an interest in public and patient involvement (PPI). It brings together individuals from diverse roles and backgrounds, offering them a rare chance to catch their breath and reflect on the importance of PPI and how we can collectively make it better.”

The event was kindly part funded by the HRB Events and Conference fund. Dr Anne Cody from the Health Research Board has attended the UL PPI Summer School in consecutive years.

She said: “The UL PPI Summer School has been a fixture in my calendar from the start. It’s a really vibrant mix of people with lots of PPI experience and those with none. All are there to learn from each other and to share experiences and questions across a vast spectrum of health research. The enthusiasm for PPI is palpable, and I have always gone home feeling that I have learned something new.”

UL is a lead university site for Public Patient Involvement in Ireland and part of the National PPI Ignite Network. Lead of this network Prof Sean Dinneen said: “As a Network comprising 7 Universities, 10 National Partners, over 50 local partners and a strong Public Advisory Board, we are delighted to support the UL PPI Summer School through attendance, participation in and facilitation of workshops and by signposting researchers and PPI contributors to the event through our online hub.

“We are proud to be associated with what has become a showcase event in the Irish PPI calendar.”

The event was attended by representatives from all seven lead PPI Ignite university sites in Ireland. Dr Emma Dorris who is Programme Manager for PPI Ignite Network @ UCD, shared her experience.

"The PPI Summer School at the UL is a fantastic event. The opportunities for meeting people with similar research interests but diverse experiences in a friendly and positive environment always make it worth attending. The workshops often give you the chance to try something a little different and you come away invigorated with something new in your PPI toolbox."

Over thirty percent of all participants came from a patient partner background. Alison Johnson, an experienced PPI Patient Partner explained why she attends the annual event: “I enjoy meeting the wide range of people who are all interested in the benefits for health and social care research that come from including a diversity of patients, carers, and members of the public, from the start of thinking about a research project, and all the way through, right up to spreading the results of the research.”

The commitment of the organisers in the Participatory Research Unit in the UL School of Medicine to gathering the national PPI community for this annual event can be seen in their reflections after the event.

Lorna Kerin, Manager Participatory Health Research Unit, also contributed to the panel discussion this year, sharing her her experience of working with a patient charity to ultimately develop new paediatric services for rare disease populations. Lorna stated: "It’s wonderful to gather the tribe of so many leaders in research and patient advocacy at the UL PPI Summer School - all committed to improving health research and ultimately health outcomes for our population."

For Dénia Claudino, Projects Officer at the UL Participatory Health Research Unit, this was her third year to lead event organisation. Despite the busy lead up to the event, the positive nature of the event uplifts all as she notes: “It’s a joy to organise this remarkable event and to witness the unwavering enthusiasm and commitment demonstrated by all participants year after year. Their insights will drive transformative and positive change in the PPI research landscape.”