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Home » About Us » Our Staff

Our Staff

CEO

Dr Avril Kennan
She/Her

CEO

Dr Avril Kennan serves as the CEO of Health Research Charities Ireland (HRCI), an organisation dedicated to supporting a thriving a community of more than 45 charities to engage in all aspects of health research, while also acting as their national advocate.

Under her leadership, HRCI runs the Irish Health Research Forum, bringing together all stakeholders to improve health research in Ireland. She also oversees HRCI’s management of the Joint Funding Scheme, in a partnership with the Health Research Board, which to date has funded 154 research projects aligned with the missions of HRCI’s member charities. Avril plays a leading role nationally in patient and public involvement (PPI), research impact, health data, research funding, genetics and genomics and rare diseases.

Avril’s academic background includes a PhD in genetics and subsequent years working as a molecular biologist. In previous roles in DEBRA Ireland and DEBRA International, she drove a range of patient-centric global initiatives. She’s a passionate advocate for the transformative power of research to improve lives.

Email: avril@hrci.ie

Operations Manager

Marie Downes
She/Her

Operations Manager

Marie is primarily responsible for HRCI general operations including securing core funding, managing accounts, membership management and governance. Marie has a background in IT Project Management and has held management positions and led teams within Bank of Ireland Finance, EDS (now merged with HP) and AranTech (now acquired by Tektronix). Marie began working with HRCI in 2010 as the sole employee of the organisation.

Email: marie@hrci.ie

Events and Communications Manager

Linda McGrath
She/Her

Events and Communications Manager

As Events and Communications Manager, Linda oversees all HRCI events ranging from workshops, meetings and webinars to the biannual Irish Health Research Forum and HRCI/HRB Joint Funding Scheme Celebrations. She is responsible for HRCI communications with all key stakeholders, including member charities, public representatives and media contacts. Linda manages the HRCI social media channels and coordinates the Irish Health Research Forum Steering Group and the HRCI Advocacy and Communications Committee.

Working in the charity sector since 2012, Linda specialises in event management, sponsorship acquisition, public affairs and communications. She has a keen interest in diversity, equality and inclusion and has volunteered within the LGBTQIA+ community for many years, most recently as Co-Organiser of Q+, a social networking group of over 1000 queer people across Ireland. Before joining HRCI, Linda worked with the Temple Street Foundation, Dublin Simon Community and in Arts Management.

Email: linda@hrci.ie

HRCI Twitter @HRCIreland

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Research Support Manager

Dr Sarah Delaney
She/Her

Research Support Manager

In her role as Research Support Manager, Sarah is responsible for strengthening the research capacity of HRCI members, managing the HRCI/HRB Joint Funding Scheme, supporting patient and public (PPI) involvement in research and engaging with relevant bodies and organisations on all aspects of health research in Ireland.

Sarah has many years’ research experience working in the field of health and social care for older people, family carers, and people with chronic illness. She worked with the Royal College of Surgeons conducting research on public and patient participation in health care, and care and case management for older people. Later, as Senior Research Consultant with the Work Research Centre, she gained valuable experience in research at National and European levels, focusing on evaluating health service users’ experiences of health technologies. She was awarded a PhD on self-management in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in September 2020. 

Email: sarah@hrci.ie

Patient & Public Involvement Liaison Rare Disease Clinical Trial Network

Dr Cassandra Dinius
She/Her

Patient & Public Involvement Liaison
Rare Disease Clinical Trial Network

Cassandra is jointly appointed between HRCI and Rare Disease Clinical Trials Network as a Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Liaison Officer. She is responsible for expanding the involvement of patients, their families, and members of the public in the design and conduct of trials in rare disease. In her role, Cassandra is developing a Rare Disease Patient Advocacy Group, delivering conferences for patients and investigators, and engaging with patient collaborators on development of new Patient Reported and Patient Centred Outcome Measures.

Cassandra has over a decade of research experience in enhancing brain health and well-being with older adults using community-based and lifestyle interventions. She enjoys collaborating with interdisciplinary and interinstitutional teams to build practice around engaged research.

Email: cassandra.dinius@ucd.ie

Link to Irish Government websiteLink to Pobal websiteLink to Health Research Board website