Dr Maria O’Brien

Dr Maria O’Brien is the Health Service Executive Principal Investigator on the Making MECC Work Project. Maria graduated with a BSC Nutritional Science from University College Cork in 1997.  She undertook a PhD while working as a researcher on the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance, North/South Food Consumption Survey of Irish Adults 1997-2001.  She completed a 3 year Postdoctoral Research post in University College Cork supporting a number of EU research projects in the area of nutrition and bone health.  Maria took up a role as a Health Promotion Officer in the HSE in 2003 and worked in a number of areas including training design, development and delivery, policy development, programme design and implementation in healthcare and other settings. 

Maria fulfilled the role of the National Project Manager for the Making Every Contact  Count (MECC) programme for 5 years up to mid 2020, and led the development of the Making Every Contact Count framework for Irish healthcare professionals; the development of the national MECC training programme, and supported implementation of the programme across the Health service in Ireland both in the hospital and community setting.  She also led the development of a National Standardised undergraduate curriculum for chronic disease prevention and management.  Her specialist interests are policy development, chronic disease, implementation science, organisational development and change management, and health service evaluation and research.  She graduated with an MSc in Health Services Management from Trinity College Dublin in 2020, and took up a new role in Primary Care Strategy and Planning, HSE as the Chronic disease implementation support for the Slaintecare funded Enhanced Community Care programme.

Prof Molly Byrne

Professor Molly Byrne is the Academic Principal Investigator for the Making MECC Work project. Molly is a Professor of Health Psychology at the School of Psychology in NUI Galway. Molly obtained an honours degree in Psychology from Trinity College Dublin and her MSc in Health Psychology and PhD from NUI Galway. In 2014 she secured a HRB Research Leadership Award to establish and direct the Health Behaviour Change Research Group (HBCRG). Her research aims to improve population health by developing and promoting an evidence-based behavioural science approach to health behaviour change interventions. She is interested in developing methods to increase the implementation and impact of behaviour change interventions, with particular interest in chronic disease prevention and management. She often uses participatory approaches in her research involving patients and public.

Molly is a member of the Executive Committee of the International Behavioural Trials Network and the Executive Management Committee of the HRB Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland. She is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board in the EU Joint Programme Initiative – Healthy Diet for Healthy Life and a member of the Advisory Board of the National Institute of Preventive Cardiology. In 2017, she was awarded a place on the Wellcome Trust Research Leadership Development Programme and she also completed the Aurora Higher Education Leadership Training Programme in 2016. She received the NUI Galway President’s Award for Research Excellence in 2015 and was an Irish Canada University Foundation Flaherty Visiting Professor in 2017, taking a position in the Montreal Behavioural Medicine Centre. In 2019, she was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the European Health Psychology Society, in recognition of an exceptional contribution to the discipline.

Dr Oonagh Meade

Dr Oonagh Meade was the lead postdoctoral researcher on the project between 2020-2022. She is also a co-applicant in the Making MECC Work project and is an Honorary Research Lecturer at the School of Psychology at NUI Galway.

Oonagh’s research interests lie in health psychology, particularly the psychosocial impact of living with long-term health conditions, the experiences of family members and carers, and the development and evaluation of behavioural interventions. Oonagh is a Patient and Public Involvement Catalyst at NUI Galway where she works to support staff and students to embed patient and public involvement in research.

On the project Oonagh is leading on data collection, analysis and reporting findings. She has also set up a Health Psychology Public Advisory Panel which is supporting the team in delivering the project.

When Oonagh is not busy doing research, you will find her running around after her two small boys and trying to keep them entertained!

Sandra Coughlan

Sandra Coughlan is a co-applicant on the Making MECC Work project. Sandra is Head of Training and Programme Design within Health and Wellbeing in the Health Service Executive.

Sandra is responsible for co-ordination of design and evaluation on behalf of a range of Policy Priority Programmes, focused on population health and inclusion of preventative measures in service design. Sandra leads the project team responsible for the implementation of Making Every Contact Count within the HSE.

From 2014-2019, Sandra worked as Regional Manager of Health Promotion and Improvement services in the HSE. Sandra also held national responsibility for co-ordination of HSE smoking cessation services and delivery of the Brief Interventions for Smoking Cessation training programme across the health service.

Sandra joined the HSE in 2004 and prior to that worked in a range of youth and community work settings. Sandra graduated from University College Cork with a BSocSc and HDip in Guidance and Counselling. Sandra subsequently graduated from Trinity College, Dublin with MSc in Health Services Management.

Sandra graduated from UCC with a BSocSc followed by a HDip in Guidance and Counselling. Sandra subsequently graduated from Trinity with MSc in Health Services Management.

Prof Catherine Hayes

Professor Catherine Hayes is a co-applicant on the Making MECC Work project. Catherine obtained her undergraduate medical degree from University College Cork and obtained a Master’s in Public Health and Doctorate from University College Dublin.  Catherine Hayes is Associate since 2011 in a joint academic-service post with the HSE.

The direction of her research is informed by her work as a public health specialist in the areas of cancer prevention, smoking cessation and obesity and by the science of dissemination and implementation (implementation science).

She has generated over €3m in research grant funding since her appointment to TCD. She is a recipient of advanced career development training awards in cancer prevention from the National Institutes for Health including the highly competitive and prestigious Training in Dissemination and Implementation Research (TIDIRH) Programme at National Cancer Institute in 2016 and was a key contributor to TIDIRH Ireland in 2018.

Outside of work she enjoys being physically active through golf and tennis, enjoys reading and music and spending time with her family.

Dr Jenny Mc Sharry

Dr Jenny Mc Sharry is a co-applicant on the Making MECC Work Project. Jenny is a chartered Health Psychologist and lecturer in the School of Psychology at NUI Galway. Jenny leads on psychology teaching to the disciplines of Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy and is the Deputy Director of the MSc in Health Psychology and Co-Director of the PhD in  Health Psychology Practice at NUI Galway. Jenny is the Assistant Director of the Health Behaviour Change Research Group at NUI Galway, an international centre of excellence in health behaviour change intervention development, evaluation and implementation. Jenny’s research aims to take a systematic approach to behaviour change to address current health priorities and healthcare challenges. Jenny has a particular interest in implementation science, and the application of behaviour change to promote the uptake of research into practice.

Prof Andrew Murphy

Professor Andrew Murphy is a co-applicant on the Making MECC Work Project. Andrew has been Foundation Professor of General Practice since 1997 and has been responsible, with many others notably Maureen Kelly, Noirin Fitzgerald and Peter Cantillon, for developing under-graduate education in general practice and post graduate education in primary care in the University and region. He is also a general practitioner principal, with Drs Brendan Day, Eamon Twomey and Liam O’Reilly, in a semi-rural practice in Turloughmore, County Galway.

He qualified in medicine from Trinity College Dublin in 1988, completed his higher general practice training in Dublin 1992, was awarded an MD in 1996, a Fellowship of the Royal College of General Practitioners in London in 2004 and a Masters in Clinical Epidemiology in Australia in 2011. He was Visiting Professor to the University of Adelaide and Flinders University in Australia for the year of 2004. His research, largely quantitative and always collaborative, addresses chronic disease management and professional practice in the community. Great colleagues in these endeavors include Susan Smith (GP), Molly Byrne (Health Psychologist), Margaret Cupples (GP), Liam Glynn (GP), John Newell (Biostatistician) and Gerry Molloy (Health Psychologist). His H-index (for all its limitations!) in July 2020 is 47 and his i-10 Index 157, with a total of 8, 716 citations. He is Director, with Patrick Murphy as Development Manager, of the five year € 2.5 million HRB Primary Care Clinical Trial Network (2015) which has run over 26 trials recruiting over 3, 500 patients ( Together with Siobhan Masterson, he has contributed to the academic stewardship of the National Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Register ( He is currently an External Advisor to the UK National Institute of Health Research, the Norwegian General Practice Research Network and the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education.

Dr Patrick Murphy

Dr Patrick Murphy is a co-applicant on the ‘Making MECC Work’ project. He is the Network Manager of the HRB Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland. A Chartered Health Psychologist with the Psychological Society of Ireland, Patrick has previously worked as an Assistant Professor in Psychology in Trinity College Dublin, and as a postdoctoral researcher with the Health Behaviour Change Research Group in NUI Galway. He completed his PhD in the Research Centre for Psychological Health in Trinity College Dublin in 2015. His research interests include the illness and treatment experiences of people living with chronic illnesses, the development and evaluation of complex behavioural interventions, and the use of qualitative research in clinical trials. His personal passions include coffee and punctuation.

Agatha Lawless

Agatha Lawless is a collaborator on the ‘Making MECC Work’ project and a member of the Study Management Team. Agatha Lawless is a Project Manager with the HSE Health and Wellbeing, Strategic Planning and Transformation.  She works on the national Making Every Contact Count Programme and previously worked with the Healthy Eating Active Living Programme.  Her work involves leading on projects that support the implementation of the Healthy Ireland in the Health Services National Implementation Plan to help people to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Prior to this she was a Training & Development Officer in suicide prevention in the HSE South East. She has a BA degree in Training and Education with the National University of Ireland, Galway. She worked as a mental health nurse in Dublin and the UK.

In her time outside of work she enjoys playing tennis, travelling & spending time with her cat!

Dr Jo Hart

Dr Jo Hart is an international collaborator on the Making MECC Work project. She is a Health Psychologist and Professor of Health Professional Education based at the University of Manchester, UK where she is Deputy Head of the Division of Medical Education.

She studies and implements interventions focused on education and training of healthcare professionals. Jo is health professional education lead for The Change Exchange ( ), in which health psychologists volunteer to work with health partnerships between UK and low income country healthcare organisations.

She works with Health Education England and Public Health England, influencing the use of behavioural science in education and training. She is a Past Chair of the British Psychological Society Division of Health Psychology and is interested in the development of health psychology in the UK and globally.

Outside of work, she loves to be either outdoors, with family or watching a binge-worthy box set (but not all 3 at the same time!).

Prof Kim Lavoie

Professor Lavoie is an international collaborator on the Making MECC Work project. She is Co-Director of the Montreal Behavioural Medicine Centre and Co-Lead of the International Behavioural Trials Network (IBTN), holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Medicine and is a researcher in the Chronic Disease Research Division at Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal. She is a Full Professor in the Department of Psychology at UQAM and an Adjunct Professor of Medicine at University of Montreal. She is the Chair of the Canadian Network for Health Behaviour Change and Promotion (CAN-Change) and an active member of the CHEP recommendation panel (Adherence Subcommittee).

Dr. Lavoie’s work focuses on research in three areas: (1) the impact of psychological stress (e.g., depression, anxiety) and lifestyle factors (diet, exercise, smoking, adherence) on the development and progression of chronic illnesses (e.g., cardiovascular disease, asthma, COPD, obesity); (2) psychophysiological and behavioural mechanisms linking psychological stress to disease; and (3) behavioural medicine (e.g., behavioral interventions for chronic illnesses, including motivational communication and cognitive-behavioral therapy).

Finally, she is an internationally recognized expert in motivational communication; over 10,000 health professionals across Canada, the US, Europe (France, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, Estonia, the UK), Australia and New Zealand have attended her professional training workshops. She currently holds multiple grants in the area of motivational communication training and efficacy for behaviour change in chronic disease.

Dr Chris Keyworth

Dr Chris Keyworth is an international collaborator on the Making MECC Work project. Chris is a Chartered Psychologist and lecturer in psychology at The University of Leeds. He obtained his PhD in Health Psychology at The University of Manchester in 2015. His thesis focused on health risk communication and health behaviour change in the context of psoriasis, a long-term inflammatory skin condition. Before moving to Leeds, he worked across a number of multidisciplinary research programmes; most recently he worked as a research fellow within the Behavioural Science sub-theme of the NIHR Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre. He is a committee member of the UK Society for Behavioural Medicine and holds an editorial position with the British Psychological Society. Chris has a background in mixed methods research, and his main interests are in applying evidence-based theory to understanding behaviour change (both patients and healthcare professionals), using psychological theory to understand and develop effective risk communication strategies, and healthcare professional-patient communication.

Dr Orlaith O’Reilly

Dr Orlaith O’Reilly is a collaborator on the Making MECC Work project. Dr. Orlaith O Reilly graduated from University College Cork in 1982 and did her MPH in University College Dublin in 1985.  She undertook general professional training in medicine, paediatrics, obstetrics, and psychiatry and practiced as a GP, prior to undertaking higher specialist training in Public Health Medicine, under the Faculty of Public Health of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland.  Her special interests have included policy and service development in cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic disease management and health information.  She was the Director of Public Health in the South Eastern region of Ireland between 1995 and 2014 and was appointed as the National Clinical Advisor and Programme Group Lead, for Chronic Disease in 2014.

Dr Anda Dragomir

Anda Dragomir is a clinical psychologist and postdoctoral research fellow from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Her research focuses on behavioural change counselling training for healthcare professionals in the context of chronic disease prevention and management. Along with the team at the Montreal Behavioural Medicine centre, she developed Motivational Communication which is defined as a collaborative communication style to enhance patient self-management in the context of chronic disease management (Dragomir et al, 2020 – DOI: 10.1093/tbm/ibaa015).

She was the lead postdoctoral researcher on the Making MECC work project between 2022-2023, focusing on the patient perspective study and the opinions of the public regarding receiving brief behavioural interventions from their health providers.

Dr Dragomir has received extensive training in psychophysiology and behavioural trial design and development and works as a clinician with individuals suffering from chronic pain and other chronic medical conditions. 

Health Psychology Public Advisory Panel

Our Health Psychology Public Advisory Panel work with us on the ‘Making MECC Work’ project and on a HRB and Irish Research Council COVID-19 Pandemic Rapid Response project on Physical Distancing. You can watch a video about the group’s work to date here.

Our panel members are: Joan Daly, Precious Jubane, Mary Liddy, Eleanor Maher, Mary Mealey, Denis Mockler and Evan O’Flaherty.

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