Who or what is SOLACE?

Written by Lisa Dikomitis

The SOLACE partnership unites 6 academic departments, all recognized internationally as excellent and delivering high-impact research and education within their discipline, a community theatre and a provincial government.The Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences at Keele University are a world leading multidisciplinary research group with an outstanding track record in primary care and community based research. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework PCHS were ranked third nationally with respect to 3 and 4* publications and first with respect to research impact.  The Community Animation & Social Innovation Centre (CASIC) is rooted in Keele University’s tradition of interdisciplinary research and its commitment to community engagement as reflected in Keele’s strategic plan.  Over fifteen community based research projects have been funded by the AHRC and other research councils in recent years. Keele’s School of Medicine has consistently ranked in the top 10 medical schools in the UK and has a strong focus in producing primary care clinicians. It houses a successful Medical Education Research Group.  The Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health (ASMPH) has a demonstrated capacity in the management of research projects on health care delivery (e.g. household survey of 3400 on maternal health care access) and workshops (e.g. Newton Fund Research Links Workshop on universal health care). The Loyola Schools at Ateneo de Manila University are home to several prestigious CHED Centres of Excellences based on the awards granted by the Philippines Commission on Higher Education.


The SOLACE team at the official launch in Manila 

We are also very proud to have the New Vic Borderlines, under the Directorship of Sue Moffat, as the UK community partner. Another important community partner in the SOLACE partnership is the Provincial Government of Northern Samar. Governor Ong has been very supportive and we work closely together with Dr Mary-Ann Avalon, Provincial Health Officer and a clinician based in Northern Samar.

Governor Ong speaking at the official SOLACE launch in Manila 

Dr Ginger Ramirez about the importance of including the local government in SOLACE

I feel very privileged to lead the large SOLACE team. The core SOLACE team consists of myself, as Principal Investigator, 8 Co-Investigators and 2 SOLACE regional managers. The SOLACE team also includes Research Associates who will help with the ethnographic fieldwork in Northern Samar. Robyn Till is our fantastic website developer and communication strategist. The Co-Investigators bring essential disciplinary and methodological expertise to SOLACE and all have actively and significantly contributed to the SOLACE partnership development. Each Co-Investigator has discrete areas of responsibility for its conduct as well as, crucially, the overall interdisciplinary development of the SOLACE partnership.


Jump shot of the SOLACE team
(Guess who is the professional dancer in our team? Hint…)

Indeed, the SOLACE team brings together wide-ranging methodological expertise, including performative methodologies, community engagement methods, arts-based methodologies, randomised control trials and epidemiology, ethnography, visual methodologies, documentary theatre techniques, social science methodologies and research methods in medical education. SOLACE includes internationally renowned researchers bringing disciplinary expertise to the partnership: primary care, public health, social anthropology, psychology, dance, rural medicine, management, rheumatology, postcolonial studies and medical education.

Professor Andy Hassell, Head of Keele’s School of Medicine, about SOLACE

Dr Manuel Dayrit, Dean of Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, about SOLACE

I am confident that SOLACE will facilitate and promote interdisciplinary capacity and career building in both the UK and the Philippines. To that end, we have ensured that the SOLACE team is gender-balanced and consists of clinical and academic leaders as well as early career researchers. I strongly believe in equity and view the SOLACE partnership as an opportunity for the junior researchers to take on core responsibilities under the mentorship of senior team members. I felt it was paramount to include the future’s clinical and creative workforces: undergraduate students from the arts, humanities and medicine from the UK and the Philippines. I envisage that the Keele-Ateneo students will be SOLACE ambassadors for their respective institutions and disciplines, raising awareness around global public health research.


The SOLACE team crossing to Laoang in Northern Samar