About The ASOI
ASOI Committee 2019-2021
Dr. Jean O'Connell
Chair / Joint Education Lead
Jean is a Consultant Endocrinologist with a sub-specialty interest in obesity management and bariatric medicine. She has been a member of St Columcille’s Hospital multi-disciplinary Weight Management Service since 2001. She is a member of the National Obesity Programme Clinical Advisory Group.
In 2009 she completed a PhD thesis focused on metabolic profile and adipose tissue morphology and function in patients with obesity undergoing bariatric surgery. Jean has a particular interest in education of health professionals on the genetic, biological and environmental drivers of obesity, with a view to reducing weight bias and stigma, and improving the lives of people living with obesity.
Dr. Sarah Browne
Dr. Sarah Browne is a registered dietitian and works as assistant professor on the MSc in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics in University College Dublin and as a post-doctoral researcher with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, where she is involved in clinical research with the childhood obesity service at Children’s Hospital Ireland, Temple Street. She graduated from Trinity College Dublin and Dublin Institute of Technology in 2006 and has worked as a community dietitian with the HSE, private practice dietitian, and in community health promotion. She has extensive experience in health behaviour change, both in the delivery of patient-centred dietetic care and in the translation of behaviour change research into practice. Sarah has worked in academic research since 2012 and her interests include participatory research methods with children and teenagers, environmental influences on diet and physical activity behaviours, and dietary interventions among children with obesity.
Dr. Fiona Lavelle
Fiona recently graduated from QUB with a PhD investigating the impact of cooking skills on the healthiness of diets. Through her PhD research, she provided initial evidence for the association between learning cooking and food skills at younger ages and healthier dietary behaviours and practices in adulthood. Fiona holds a Masters in Preventive Cardiology from Imperial College London and a BSc in Sport Science and Health from Dublin City University. Her current research interests include cooking skills and meal preparation behaviours, the learning and measuring of cooking skills in children, childhood obesity and consumer trust.
Ms Samira Jabakhanji
Ms Natalie Wallace
Natalie Wallace qualified from TCD/DIT with a BSc (Human Nutrition and Dietetics) in 2005. She began her career in the diabetes and weight management service at St Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, where she worked for one year before taking up a post in St.James’ Hospital, Dublin. Following this, she went to St Vincent’s University Hospital and worked in the areas of surgery and diabetes. Her current role is Senior Dietitian specialising in diabetes and weight management in the Endocrine Service at St Columcille’s Hospital. She is a member of the Nutrition and Dietetic Institute and previously Joint Secretary of the ASOI
Dr. Cathy Breen
Cathy qualified from TCD/DIT with a BSc (Human Nutrition and Dietetics) in 2002. She has worked as a Senior Dietitian specialising in diabetes and weight management in the Endocrine Service, St Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, Co Dublin since 2003. She has been a member of the Weight Management Interest Group of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI) and has been involved in the development of guidelines and resources for the dietary management of obesity. She has represented the INDI on the Irish National Obesity Taskforce Treatment Algorithm- and Nutrition-sub groups and the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Policy Group on Obesity and currently sits on Diabetes UK Nutrition Guideline Committee. Her research interests include the translation of evidence to clinical practice in weight and diabetes management, completing her PhD in this area through UCD in 2016.
Dr. Grace O’Malley
Grace was recruited by RCSI in 2017 as a researcher and focuses on the field of childhood obesity. She is the multidisciplinary clinical lead of the W82GO Weight Management Service at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital where she has worked since 2004. Her research work to date has investigated the musculoskeletal and cardio–metabolic co-morbidities associated with paediatric obesity, physical activity interventions and complex interventions for the treatment of paediatric obesity. Grace was awarded a Ph.D. in Medicine (Public Health and Epidemiology) in 2015 from UCC. Her Ph.D. Fellowship was funded by the Health Research Board of Ireland and sought to integrate connected health systems into childhood obesity treatment services. In 2008/9 Grace joined the Childhood Obesity Team at the Yale University School of Medicine, USA following a successful award as a Fulbright Scholar. Here she worked as part of a world-class team investigating the pathophysiology of Type-2 diabetes in children with obesity. She completed a research Masters in the University of Dublin, TCD in 2006 funded by the Hussey-Gormley fellowship following graduation as a physiotherapist in 2004. Grace served as the inaugural Chair of ASOI from 2013-2015 and Chair from 2015-2017. She is Secretary of the Childhood Obesity Task Force of the European Association for the Study of Obesity, a member of the European Childhood Obesity Group and Treasurer of the Paediatric section of the World Confederation of Physiotherapists.
Ms Susie Birney
Secretary of ECPO; ASOI Patient Rep
Dr. Mary A. T. Flynn
Dr Mary Flynn is a public health nutritionist and a registered dietitian and has worked in public health, clinical nutrition and academia in Ireland, Canada and the Middle East. Currently she leads work on nutrient reference standards for infants and young children at Codex Alimentarius (WHO and FAO of the UN); and is an External Advisor on Health Canada’s new Food Guide (2019). Throughout her career she has led multidisciplinary teams in tackling some of the biggest challenges posed by obesity and related chronic diseases. She has implemented innovative prevention and treatment programs reducing risk of heart disease and diabetes for people of all ages. An understanding of how overweight and chronic disease can negatively impact a person’s self-esteem is evident throughout Mary’s work. Her insight and sensitivity around people’s need to ‘feel good about themselves’ so that they can be empowered to ‘enjoy healthy eating’ and ‘have fun being active’ is a hallmark of her approach. She attributes her empathy to the generosity and openness of the many children, teenagers, and adults she has been privileged to treat. Using her in-depth knowledge of food law and labelling, she has recently developed approaches to help consumers navigate the food environment to identify truly healthy food options. She led the allergen and calorie menu labelling work in Ireland to inform people about safe and healthier choices. As part of this, she led the team that created MenuCal – a calorie calculator and allergen management system for food businesses (www.menucal.ie). Mary has over 100 scientific publications and her work on childhood obesity has been recognized by the WHO. In 2014, Mary was awarded the inaugural medal for excellence in Public Health Nutrition by the Nutrition Society. She was appointed as a member of the first Healthy Ireland Council by the Minister for Health and has been a Visiting Professor at the Ulster University, Northern Ireland since 2012.
Ms Marian Hughes
ASOI Patient Representative
I first attended a paediatrician for weight issues at 6 years of age– thus began nearly 60 years of my struggle with obesity. I have been married for 42 years with 3 adult children and 2 grandchildren. We have always maintained a healthy and varied diet in our home and I love cooking and researching new healthy recipes. Over the years I developed chronic arthritis in both knees, diabetes 2, retinopathy in both eyes, 2 umbilical hernias and severe liver disease (NASH). In 2018 my GP recommended that I consider bariatric surgery for health reasons. Since then my diabetes 2 and retinopathy have been reversed, my liver is much improved and my mobility a lot better. I am very passionate about helping and supporting others who struggle with obesity – as I know what a lonely road it can be!.
Ms Karen Gaynor
Karen qualified from the University of Liverpool with an MSc in Human Nutrition and Dietetics in 2006. She began her career in weight management in NHS Liverpool and has worked as a Senior Dietitian specialising in weight management and diabetes in the Endocrine Service, St Columcille’s Hospital, Dublin since 2011. She is a member of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI), a committee member of the Association for the Study of Obesity in Ireland (ASOI) and a member of the HSE Making Every Contact Count (MECC) Knowledge Reference Group. She has a keen interest in communication skills and behavioural approaches in the management of obesity and chronic disease, and regularly provides training to dietitians and other health professionals on this topic. In 2017, she became the first INDI member to join the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers, an international organization of trainers in motivational interviewing with a central interest to improve the quality and effectiveness of counselling and consultations with clients about behaviour change.
Ms Marita Hennessy
Marita holds a Masters in Health Education and Health Promotion and a BSc in Nutrition. She is currently undertaking her PhD studies and is examining behavioural interventions delivered by health professionals during pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life to prevent childhood obesity. After graduating in 2001, Marita worked in the food industry for four years in managerial and technical roles. From 2005 to 2015 she held a variety of contract research posts with: safefood, University College Cork, the Children’s Research Centre-Trinity College Dublin, the National Cancer Registry, and Waterford Institute of Technology. Her research interests include childhood obesity, health behaviour change interventions, implementation science, food poverty and men’s health. Marita is a member of the Health Service Executive’s Healthy Weight for Children Working Group and the Irish Heart Foundation Nutrition Council.
Ms Niamh Arthurs
Joint Education Lead
Dr. Johann Issartel
Dr. Johann Issartel is a Lecturer in the School of Health and Human Performance at DCU. He holds an M.Sc and Ph.D in Human Movement Sciences and Behavioural Neuroscience. He is a member of the ISMC (International Society for Motor Control) and the ASOI (Association for the Study of Obesity on the island of Ireland). He is the principal investigator of the Sensory-Motor Deficiency in Obese Children and Adults project and the Moving Well-Being Well Project. Dr. Issartel work is based on two main pillars: The first one lie in the perception and action field, investigating how controlled movements may be coupled with sensory information. He is investigating different aspects of the dynamical/ecological approach to perception and action from both a theoretical and methodological perspective. He is interested in understanding how this information sharing is used to control movement and how information and movement are coupled in the case of different perception modalities (hearing, touch and/or sight). Following this line, the objective of the experimental manipulation of multimodal situations is to understand the weight of each sense and the link between them for human motor interactions. This fundamental research also led to several applications for obese children and adults and also for patients with developmental coordination disorder or impeded fine motor skills. The second aspect of his expertise is in the area of fundamental movement skill development and measurement in young people, their link to physical activity participation, and the development of appropriate pedagogies to support teaching/coaching of these elements through the PE curriculum. Dr. Issartel is the co-founder of the Moving Well-Being Well and the Youth-Physical Activity Towards Health Programmes which are research informed and evidence based intervention programmes aiming at promoting physical literacy for children and adolescents with a key focus on the fundamental movement skill proficiency.
Ms Louise Tully
Louise holds a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition (specialising in Public Health Nutrition) from the University of Glasgow, and a BSc in Food, Nutrition and Health from the University of Abertay, Dundee. She is now a PhD scholar on the SPHeRE programme at RCSI, undertaking a project under the supervision of Dr Grace O’Malley, to examine costs and outcomes related to mHealth for childhood obesity treatment.