Akinola Adewunmi and his wife Olubukola, from Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, were the winners of the Health and Wellbeing Advocate award at this year’s National BAME Health & Care Awards for their work encouraging ethnic minority communities to give blood. He explains why a healthcare role is a social calling and why driving awareness about blood donation requires collaboration with community groups.
Congratulations on winning the ‘Health and Wellbeing Advocate’ award at the National BAME Health & Care Awards, what wider impact do you want this award to have?
I want this award to inspire as many BAME staff as possible to use their career skills and expertise to create social action projects that will benefit hospital patients and our immediate communities. I also want this award to inspire healthcare workers to see their job beyond receiving a salary and see it as a life calling and service to humanity.
What inspired you to start PathLab? What progress have you witnessed since its foundation?
My wife and I were inspired to start PathLab Support in 2012 because of our family experience with Sickle Cell Disease. We are both Sickle Cell Carriers and there was a 25% chance of each of our three children being affected. Thankfully, none of them are affected. It was this experience and the thought of families affected with sickle cell disease that inspired us to think of doing something to help others by raising the awareness of the disease and thereafter we started the blood donation campaign to support hospital patients. So far, the PathLab team has made positive impacts within our community; this includes the recruitment of approximately 600 donors from both white and BAME communities in the Liverpool city region, which includes Pakistani, Nigerian, and Somali communities.
Can you tell me about PathLab’s work supporting hospital care for children in Nigeria?
PathLab has supported hospital care for children in Nigeria through offsetting hospital bills and through organising three separate hospital visits to donate toys and gift items. We have reached out to over 1,000 children with gift items, and we hope to do more.
How can we encourage more people from the UK BAME community to become blood donors?
There is a need for continuous blood donation awareness, and we have to be creative and innovative about this, reaching out to people where they are is the key. The PathLab team is currently working with stakeholders and community organisations such as community groups, faith-based groups, and local event planners. By doing so, we are strengthening the NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT’s) engagement with these organisations at the local level.
Do you feel like yourself, and your wife Olubukola have become role models in your community?
Yes, this award has highlighted our community engagements and career life as people look up to us as role models both within our community and workplace. The award has also given us more opportunity to engage with a lot of people from different walks of life. Moreover, having BAME role models in the UK healthcare sector is very important because a lot of dedicated BAME healthcare professionals are working very hard and are contributing their skills and expertise to the NHS and they need to be recognised.
From those you have spoken with, what are the common concerns people from the BAME community have with donating blood?
The major concerns are religious and cultural barriers to blood donation. Another concern is mindset; a lot of people are used to relative blood donation back home in their different countries rather than the voluntary blood donation system that we have here in the UK. So, we need to create more awareness to educate people to embrace the voluntary blood donation system.
What are your main professional goals for the next year?
Our main goal is to take advantage of the opportunities this award has presented to us for our career development and progression through available peer support mentorship and leadership training. Also, as role models, we will be mentoring and coaching young and aspiring Biomedical Scientists and Biomedical Science students in the UK and remotely in Nigeria.