- Rich Ferrie leads an exciting new era for UCC Innovation
- UCC honours its graduates with the official naming of the Alumni Bridge
- New UCC series explains how university research impacts daily life
- UCC's rising sports stars presented with scholarships
- UCC ranked among top universities in Europe for teaching excellence
Times Higher Education Europe Teaching Rankings 2019
- UCC makes Green Flag history…again!
The first university in the world to be awarded a fourth Green Flag
- Blazing a trail
Professor Helen Whelton charts her path to success, from curious dentistry student to global award-winner
- A Summer’s Evening on the Quad hits the right note for Cork charities
The fundraising event is now in its 14th year
- A curious mind
Paul Ross on his love of science, his greatest moments of discovery, and the exciting next chapter at APC Microbiome Ireland
- Mind your microbiome: 9 ways to boost your gut health
In honour of World Microbiome Day
- UCC hosts top wind energy experts at Cork’s largest ever conference
Scientists and engineers gathered to discuss the future of renewable energy
- Lord David Puttnam makes a passionate case for careers in the arts
He features in the latest episode of UCC’s podcast, Plain Speaking
- Funding announced for UCC SFI Research Centres
- Beekeeping makes life sweeter for Cork kids
- Saving Ireland's seals with GPS
- UCC celebrates a stellar year in sport
- Tommy Fleming headlines A Summer's Evening on the Quad
Tickets available now
- UCC ranked as global leader for sustainable social and economic impact
Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings
- Former UCC President Michael Murphy becomes first ever Irish President of EUA
Professor Murphy served as UCC President for 10 years
- MaREI researcher returns from epic adventure in search of blue whales
Dr Ailbhe Kavanagh spent seven weeks in Antarctica
- Doireann Ní Ghríofa among six new members elected to Aosdána at UCC ceremony
Writer Doireann is a UCC alumna
- Former White House drug advisor goes 'inside America’s opioid crisis'
Keith Humphreys is the latest guest on UCC's official podcast, Plain Speaking
- UCC launches Sports Strategy
Pride on our chest, belief in our heart, sport in our bones.
- How Nicole Ryan is powering change after tragedy
- Brainwave ‘donation’ research offers promise for dementia treatment
Research and innovation
- Full-circle for Paul as UCC extends partnership with Cork City FC
A perfect match
- Praise for The Irish Revolution as 'Atlas' documentary airs on RTÉ
Atlas of the Irish Revolution
- Pastures new
UCC launches its Food Institute
- Making waves at MaREI
Ireland's National Ocean Test Facility opens
- Research spotlight: APC Microbiome Ireland
10 researchers among Highly Cited
- Spin-out success
Atlantia Food Clinical Trials expanding stateside
- Billy Morgan: Pride of Cork
Marking a decade of UCC Sigerson Cup football
- The future is bright for soccer's Captain Fantastic
- The next phase for rugby's rising star
- RTÉ to air 'Atlas' documentary
The next step for the Atlas of the Irish Revolution
- Top business talent share their secrets to success
CUBS Conference 2019
- Green roots and flying boots: Cork Chamber project showcases ‘future’ of Cork
Future Forms is part of Cork Chamber’s 200th anniversary celebrations
- CEO and camogie star Mary O'Connor is leading change for women in sport
Moving the goalposts
- Mary Robinson is the first guest on UCC’s new podcast
Plain Speaking is now available to stream
Blazing a trail
Fresh from being honoured with two prestigious medical awards, Professor Helen Whelton reflects on how a spark of inspiration fueled her trailblazing career. In conversation with Jane Haynes
Sometimes, a small spark of inspiration is all that is required to set a talented visionary blazing the trail to success.
Fresh from being honoured with not one but two globally prestigious awards – the Distinguished Scientist H Trendley Dean Memorial Award and the International Association for Dental Research EW Borrow Memorial Award – Professor Helen Whelton, Head of UCC’s College of Medicine and Health, can still remember the moment that ‘inspired her whole career’.
A final year dentistry student in UCC, Helen was attending a guest lecture by then-Chief Dental Officer, Denis O’Mullane, at the time.
“He gave a talk about how fluoride toothpaste augments the effect of water fluoridation. It was something I had been curious about, but it was difficult to get questions answered,” Helen recalls.
“He answered the question for me, and I thought the way he dealt with it – and all the research that had gone into it, was so impressive. I just thought, wow, I’d love to do that kind of work.”
The stars aligned for Helen when, two years later, Denis took up the position of senior lecturer in paediatric dentistry and advertised for a research fellow.
“I was there waiting for it, and I had to compete for it, but I got the job and never really looked back,” she says.
If that single lecture ignited the spark, then it was Helen’s drive, ambition and passion that fuelled her rise through the academic ranks. She went on to hold the roles of both Dean of Graduate School and Vice Head of the College of Medicine and Health at UCC, before being appointed Dean of Dentistry at the University of Leeds.
The move to the UK was ‘reaffirming’ for Helen: “I felt that it was good for UCC to have produced someone who was competing at that level; and it was good for women, because there were very few female deans of dentistry in the UK – I was one of three.”
It is clear from speaking to Helen that, as well as being driven by curiosity, she is an innovator, through and through. Indeed, we need only look to what she has achieved as coordinating Principal Investigator of a Horizon 2020 grant exploring the use of big data in dentistry, for evidence.
"I felt that it was good for UCC to have produced someone who was competing at that level, and it was good for women..." - Helen Whelton
Helen, who held the Presidency at the International Association for Dental Research, recruited two colleagues to help her put pen to paper on the grant. Many hours of hard work later, and the green light signalled: a grant of €6million was awarded for a four-year project, to look at how data could be used to motivate dentists towards more preventive behaviour.
“This placed my belief that we should do more prevention,” Helen says of her vision for the grant and what could be achieved.
Her team was partnered with six countries, with involvement from dental insurers, universities, oral healthcare companies, the European Chief Dental Officers, and others.
“They believed in what we were trying to do,” explains Helen, “they believed that we should be able to take administrative data and feed back to dentists on how they are performing in their practice in terms of prevention, and compare them with other dentists.
“When you think about it, a dentist knows how they are doing in their practice, but they don’t know what kind of outcomes their patients are experiencing relative to other dentists. We wanted to use the data sets in the different countries to feed back that information.
“We actually found that very difficult to do, and we ended up developing an app for patients to feed back to, after their visit.”
The Conferring for Dental Students 2019 took place today @UCC with Dr Christine McCreary, Cork University Dental School and Hospital, guest speaker professor Edwin Scher, UCC President Patrick O'Shea @osheaucc and Helen Whelton @hwhelton Head of College of Medicine and Health. pic.twitter.com/suHnsACjfS— UCC Medicine & Health (@UCCMedHealth) June 14, 2019
The success of the project, Helen says, has also led to talks on setting up a platform for public health policy for oral health, as part of an initiative run in Europe.
For Helen, who had been contemplating the concept behind the H2020 grant for years before making the application, exploring the use of big data in the public health system could prove revolutionary.
“It’s exciting to think of the potential for the use of big data to really enhance the health services and treatments, and the patient experience; the potential for machine-learning and automating a lot of the routine decisions we make,” she says.
“It’s a bit like the ‘big data revolution’ – there is so much that we can do, and it’s just a matter of aligning the ambition with the health know-how and the technical know-how, and getting people working on that agenda. It’s hugely exciting.”
"I had a vision for what we could achieve, and it’s a real privilege to be given the opportunity to do that" - Helen Whelton
Equally as exciting, is being back in her alma mater for the past two years. As Head of the College of Medicine and Health, and Chief Academic Officer for the South South West Hospital Group, Helen is relishing the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
“The draw for me to come back was the potential to develop things here. A lot of good work was being done; I had a vision for what we could achieve, and it’s a real privilege to be given the opportunity to do that,” she explains.
“It’s not easy, but I think we’ve got a really ambitious team of people in leadership at the university at the moment, who want to achieve for the university, the region and the country.
“I still have a job of work to do at the College of Medicine and Health, but an important factor for me is the team – you don’t do it alone; you do it with a big team and the support of family, and it’s really important to recognise that.”
Click here for more information about UCC's College of Medicine and Health.