Illawarra Health & Medical Research Institute
|Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute|
|Location||Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia|
|Affiliations||University of Wollongong and Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District|
The Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI) is a joint initiative of the University of Wollongong (UOW) and the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD). Established in 2008, IHMRI’s goal is to foster, support and grow health and medical research in the Illawarra region by connecting and supporting academic and clinician researchers around research problems of relevance to the region and the world. By providing research leadership, coordination, infrastructure, facilities and other support to researchers throughout the Illawarra, IHMRI provides a focal point for health and medical research in the region, builds research capacity within the public and private health sectors and seeks to deliver results that are directly applicable to improved clinical practice, health service delivery and public health.
IHMRI Research Program
In 2014 IHMRI announced a new, three-year Research Strategy as part of a broad-ranging strategic planning and governance review. The strategy recognises existing research strengths and groupings within the University of Wollongong (UOW) and Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) and research areas for potential development. It also aligns IHMRI-affiliated researchers with IHMRI’s research priorities and provides targeted strategies and actions to advance the institute’s research program in line with national policy and local needs.
The new research program is now organised around three broad-based themes which span the translational research continuum encompassing basic science through to clinical, population and public health research:
- Diagnostics and Therapeutics
- Mental Health and the Ageing Brain
- Chronic Conditions and Lifestyle
The program brings nationally and internationally recognised experts, including those directly involved in clinical service delivery, from a wide range of disciplines and fields together to collaborate on cross disciplinary studies.
The strategy also recognises a number of clusters where a critical mass of expertise (or emerging expertise) provides a focus around particular research priorities. These clusters exist both within and across themes.
One such cluster is the Illawarra Health Insights program, which brings researchers from across the themes together to gather data on the current and long-term health of the local community. The aim is to understand the health behaviours of local residents so that more effective population-based approaches can be taken to managing chronic diseases.
As an independent medical research institute, IHMRI provides the primary vehicle through which academics, clinicians, health service professionals and research students advance health and medical research in the Illawarra region.
Research groups, centres and individual researchers from IHMRI's key stakeholder organisations (the UOW and ISLHD) and other community and private health organisations, are eligible to affiliate with IHMRI on the basis that their research aligns with IHMRI’s research themes and has the potential to contribute directly to IHMRI’s Research Strategy and priorities. Through formal affiliation agreements, IHMRI researchers retain their intellectual autonomy while pursuing specific areas of research under IHMRI’s leadership and direction and access the benefits, services and research-intensive environment provided by a medical research institute. Post-graduate research students may also affiliate with IHMRI under their supervisors' agreements.
IHMRI affiliated researchers are either located in IHMRI's headquarters or work primarily from various UOW-based health, medical, science, engineering and informatics research centres and facilities and ISLHD-based hospital and community health settings. IHMRI has affiliated-researchers also working from private and community based health practice settings. Over 20 per cent of all UOW Higher Degree Research Students are affiliated with IHMRI under their supervisors’ affiliation agreements.
Affiliated researchers reap the benefits of IHMRI’s state-of-the-art research environment and are guided by IHMRI’s Executive Director and theme leaders who provide mentorship and advice on research direction and opportunities for new projects and collaborations.
In addition to its formally affiliated researchers, IHMRI also engages with a vast network of organisations and individuals with an interest in health and medical research via the IHMRI Research Network. Network members receive information on events, seminars and IHMRI’s research activities. They also align themselves with one or more of IHMRI’s research themes so that information and activities can be targeted to their needs and interests.
IHMRI Facilities and Services
Completed in 2010, IHMRI’s state-of-the-art headquarters and research facilities were designed around the principle of shared amenities and services.
Built to PC2 specifications, the laboratories occupy two levels of the building. On the first level there is a dedicated Clinical Research and Trials Unit for the conduct of commercial trials and investigator-initiated studies.
Offices, meeting rooms and common areas are provided on all three levels to house approximately 150 researchers, students and operations staff, with many more researchers accessing facilities and services for specific research activities.
Given IHMRI’s regional context and community-centred focus, the local community plays a significant role in supporting IHMRI’s activities, either by participating in clinical trials, making donations and providing other support, or by showing an interest in IHMRI’s activities.
With a world-class facility of great pride to the local community and research network, IHMRI and its partners are taking the opportunity to position the Illawarra region as a world-class centre of excellence in health and medical research.