Best Thesis Competition finalists – Dr Louise Tully – Zoom Forward 22

Best Thesis Competition finalists – Dr Louise Tully – Zoom Forward 22

The Best Thesis Award Session will take place on Friday 6th May from 16.15- 17.50 Room 0.4 and is immediately followed by the Poster Networking Reception Programme.

The session will see presentations from our three finalists, and here we meet the first, Dr Louise Tully of the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin. We will meet the other two finalists in the next two editions of the newsletter.

Q: Hi Louise, welcome to this year’s congress and congratulations on your rahcing the final of the Best Thesis Award this year. Please tell us a little about yourself.

A: Thank you so much! I was thrilled to have my thesis shortlisted. I am Dr Louise Tully, and I work as a postdoctoral researcher with the Obesity Research and Care Group, at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin. I grew up in a rural part of Ireland, in County Cavan. I am also a nutritionist.

Q: Tell us about how you first entered the world of obesity research.

A: I studied nutrition at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and then embarked on a research career which started out in the obesity prevention field, specifically infant feeding. When I started my PhD in population health and health services research in 2017, I was paired with my supervisor whose area of expertise was childhood obesity management, and my PhD developed from there!

Q: And of course – tell us the subject of your thesis – why is this area important in obesity research?

A: My thesis assessed the use of digital healthcare for children with obesity. This is a rapidly developing area that my supervisor, Dr Grace O’Malley had started researching about 10 years ago, and it became vastly more important as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. I had the chance to build on her formative work by assessing aspects such as the cost of delivery. During the early weeks of the pandemic, I also undertook a rapid review of telehealth acceptability in paediatrics, to inform the emergency response locally. It’s important to continue pursuing innovative ways to ensure obesity care for all who need it, and the future is digital. However, it’s equally important to ensure novel technologies we use in practice provide value for public money.

Q: What are your aims for the first part of your career?

A: My core career goal is to use the knowledge and research skills I have gained, in a capacity that improves our Irish health service, particularly for those who are most marginalised. Children who grow up with socioeconomic disadvantage are more likely to develop obesity, but also to have a range of poorer outcomes. I hope that there will continue to be funding and opportunities for research and interventions that tackle health disparities, and that I can somehow contribute!

Q: Have you been involved in any studies so far?

A: I have been privileged to work on a new project with the Obesity Research and Care Group for the past few months. This project is assessing the views of healthcare professionals and families on the current capacity for managing childhood obesity in the Irish health service. This work has allowed me to hear insights from amazing individuals who are dedicated to child health. We are excited to start collecting data from parents and young people next.

Q: What are some of the sessions that you would like to attend in this year’s congress?

A: There are far too many to name! It is so nice to have such a varied and holistic programme. I am particularly interested to see that there is a topic session around eating disorders and obesity in children/adolescents, as there has been a societal shift around language and messaging recently and many stakeholders are grappling with how to carefully and meaningfully prevent and manage both.

Q: Finally, enough work talk! Tell us what you like to do to relax.

A: What’s that?! Just kidding, I have a PhD in relaxing! I like to play a little bit of piano, go to gigs, watch trashy reality TV, and I also took up a bit of (generally unsuccessful) gardening during the pandemic. Lately I have tried some sea swimming with the encouragement of my colleague Dr Maeve O’Brien, so I am excited to do more of that this summer!

Thanks so much Louise, and enjoy the congress!