interview

Introducing Ms Aisling Walsh

Aisling is Senior Project Manager at the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants and proud of its work in advancing healthcare and support for newborns and their families worldwide

What is your area of work and what attracted you to it?

I work as Senior Project Manager for Maternal and Newborn Health in the Scientific Affairs Department of the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI). I am a political scientist specialised in EU and international project management covering a wide range of themes. Healthcare, and specifically that of children and premature babies, has been of particular interest to me over the years both professionally and personally. Its capacity to advance society and impact families is profound. What I find attractive about this area of work is the combination of international research project management, advocacy and awareness raising work that we do.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

What I have enjoyed most in my career to date is cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Joining forces with experts from countries worldwide to deliver results in various projects (research, communication, advocacy etc.) is challenging but ultimately very motivating and drives me in my daily work. Within this position at EFCNI, it is rewarding to contribute towards bettering the lives of one of the most vulnerable groups in our society, that of newborns and their families.

What is the most important purpose you want to address in your work?

Several years ago, I remember being shocked at the disparity in neonatal care between Western and Eastern Europe through a related project I was working on at the time. At the European level, EFCNI has initiated and is coordinating the European Standards of Care for Newborn Health project to establish standards for key topics in newborn health. Through the implementation of these standards, these disparities are attempting to be addressed.

Furthermore, on a global level, GLANCE (Global Alliance for Newborn Care) was established in 2018 by EFCNI to create, empower and support a global patient voice in each region of the world while taking into account the respective cultural, historical and socio-economic backgrounds and needs of families. The results of the PREMSTEM project will serve only to strengthen these standards of newborn care, hence the importance of as wide a dissemination and exploitation of the project results as possible.

What is your organisation’s role on the PREMSTEM project?

EFCNI is leading PREMSTEM’s communication and dissemination strategy. We are responsible for the communication, dissemination and exploitation of the project both during and after its implementation. We are working in close collaboration with colleagues from our partner organisations to ensure that the project and its results are communicated and disseminated to as large an audience as possible, not only within the scientific world but also outside it, and in a way so that findings are accessible to and understandable for everyone. Furthermore, we are in charge of setting up a patient/consumer advisory board, who will advise us and help us ensure that all information materials are written in a sensitive way that reflects the patient perspective. Maximum exploitation of PREMSTEM is an essential element in advancing the project results so that clinical trials can be conducted as a future step.

What is innovative about PREMSTEM? Why is this research important?

Every year, 15 million babies worldwide are born too early. While many of these babies survive, a high number will have lifelong health problems. Until now, there exists no remedy for preterm birth brain damage. PREMSTEM aims to develop a new regenerative stem cell therapy to repair this brain damage. In doing so, the enormous emotional, health and economic burden this condition causes will be significantly reduced. This covers the individuals affected, their families and carers, and society as a whole. The research is a strong collaboration between worldwide researchers, industry, healthcare organisations and patient/parent organisations.

What is the most significant outcome you hope PREMSTEM can achieve?

As a mother myself and from an emotional point of view, lessening the anguish of families of newborns and giving these babies the best possible start in life is of ultimate significance. On a par with this, developing a novel therapy for preterm birth brain damage will only serve to strengthen and advance our society as a whole and shine more light on this tremendous area of research.

As a mother myself and from an emotional point of view, lessening the anguish of families of newborns and giving these babies the best possible start in life is of ultimate significance.

Ms Aisling Walsh
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