The Ballarat Innovation and Research Collaboration in Health has a new face and a new home with the appointment of well-known local medico Associate Professor Mark Yates as its inaugural executive director.
The BIRCH collaborative brings together Ballarat's brightest medical minds, who will be housed at the institute's new base at 101 Webster Street, in the heart of the city's Health and Knowledge Precinct.
Ballarat's two major health services, St John of God Ballarat and Ballarat Health Services, and the six universities offering local health professional training have come together to create the institute which will conduct research in to the challenges of providing excellence in health care.
The group's first associate researcher has already begun work on a study in to improving prevention and diagnosis of delirium.
“The establishment of BIRCH is critical to the development of Ballarat as a recognised centre of academic excellence. Ballarat is already recognised as Victoria’s leading regional centre for secondary education with great potential for the university sector to strengthen research collaboration through BIRCH,” Dr Yates said.
"I think we can build a research environment that means people will stay, graduates will stay to do their PhD here in Ballarat and build a true academic sector. In my experience, people like that don't look at Ballarat as a place where they will continue their academic career. This will give them a vision and give the community a sense of ownership."
The collaboration will be led by St John of God Ballarat, Ballarat Health Services (BHS) and Federation University, with the three Ballarat-based medical schools of Deakin University, Notre Dame University and the University of Melbourne, the Dental School hosted by La Trobe University and nursing, paramedics and physiotherapy training hosted by the Australian Catholic University Ballarat also taking part.
Each organisation brings different facilities, skills and opportunities to the group.
"BIRCH will look at transforming health services with an interest in prevention and large community-based activities that impact directly on the community … to hopefully transform the way we practice in hospitals to improve health for the community in general."
I know BIRCH will be embraced by the wider community of Ballarat, and, by demonstrating the ingenuity of the Ballarat research community, become a source of community pride and inspiration.Dr Mark Yates
Research areas will include aged care, primary care and population health, health care systems and integration. Digital Health, mental health and health resource stewardship are key themes that will inform thinking and solution generation across the research areas.
Dr Yates said Ballarat was an ideal site for research in to health services. "Ballarat is one of those sites which we describe as a 'Goldilocks site' … not too big, not too small, just the right size to drive organisational change."
Ballarat Innovation and Research Collaboration in Health aims to have 300 researchers within 10 years, and more than 1000 working and living in the region within 20 years.
The health institutions, universities and City of Ballarat have lobbied heavily for state government funding for the BIRCH initiative, receiving an initial $300,300 in October - the first step in an estimated $19 million project.
“I know BIRCH will be embraced by the wider community of Ballarat, and, by demonstrating the ingenuity of the Ballarat research community, become a source of community pride and inspiration,” Dr Yates said.
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