Professor Patricia Kearney, School of Public Health

Patricia Kearney, Professor of Epidemiology

Patricia Kearney, Professor of Epidemiology

College: Medicine & Health

School: Public Health

Research Interests: Cardiovascular epidemiology, population health & health services, chronic disease epidemiology

IRIS profile: http://research.ucc.ie/profiles/C010/patriciakearney

What first attracted you to your academic discipline?

As an undergraduate medical student in UCC, I spent a summer in Baltimore, Maryland.  I completed an elective at The Welch Centre for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical research at Johns Hopkins University.  I really enjoyed the population health perspective and the focus on disease prevention.  I remember Professor Paul Whelton, who I worked with describing the potential benefit of reducing average salt intake of hospital patients on cardiovascular disease compared to the impact of treatment with drugs or procedures.  This was my first introduction to Rose's strategy of preventive medicine.  I also had the opportunity to attend an intensive week long course in clinical research methods with medical staff from Hopkins and I really enjoyed the dynamic learning environment.  This influenced my subsequent decision to pursue my graduate studies in the US.

How were you drawn to your current research interests?

Primarily serendipity!

What professional achievements do you consider particularly rewarding?

A number of years ago, two of my PhD students nominated me for the UCC Research Supervisor of the Year award.

Have you had professional role models? What impact did they have on you?

My current head of school, Professor Ivan Perry, was appointed when I was in my final year of medical school.  I spoke to him about my interest in public health and epidemiology and he advised me to go away and get the best training I could, which was great advice.  He continued to give me advice and guidance as my career progressed.  He also put me in contact with another mentor, Professor RoseAnne Kenny, whose dynamism and commitment to research is inspiring.

What aspects of your work do you find most rewarding?

The aspect of my work I find most rewarding is supervision of PhD and post-doctoral students.  Particularly seeing resarchers develop their own independent interests and seeing them progress their careers.

Academic careers present specific challenges in achieving balance, whether between research, teaching and administration, or in work/life balance. What advice might you give a student/younger colleague/your 18-year old self?

I advise all of my students to undertake work that they enjoy - it is not always clear why we find a particular area more interesting than another, but it is important to enjoy the work that you are doing and find it meaningful.  Another key piece of advice that I give to younger colleagues is to take risks and embrace new opportunities.  At the same time, to figure out where your interests lie and that it is okay to say 'No' if you are fully committed.  Final bit of advice is to make time for yourself, whether it's for a lunchtime spin class, training for a marathon or going to book club.

Athena SWAN

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