Louis Palmer, Clinical Studies Officer, Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust was this year’s Ground Breaking Researcher of the Year at the National BAME Health & Care Awards 2021. He explains why building trust with ethnic minority communities over health research is so important.
In your view, why are the National BAME Health & Care Awards important?
The National BAME Health & Care Awards mean a lot because they celebrate the amazing work that ethnic minority staff are doing in healthcare. The healthcare system was built from people like my nan, who came over from the Caribbean as part of the Windrush generation to help build the NHS and make it what we all know and love today. I don’t believe there are many platforms that celebrate these achievements and it’s a privilege to have won this award amongst some amazing nominees, who are all doing brilliant work in their respective fields.
What did winning the ‘Ground Breaking Researcher of the Year’ award mean to you?
The award is special but winning it at a time like the present during the pandemic makes it even more special. I was very surprised by the nomination and didn’t expect to win when I saw the list of nominees. It was nice to see how happy family, friends and colleagues were when I won.
When did you realise there were grave health inequalities for BAME communities?
Health inequalities have always been there for ethnic minorities, but they have been highlighted and put to the forefront by the COVID-19 pandemic. I remember when the pandemic first hit, and it was difficult to hear that it was disproportionately affecting people from backgrounds like mine. That was when I wanted to do something to try and help. I knew that research would be important, so I started to do work to try and engage communities in this.
Tell me about your role as RDaSH BAME Network Chair and what you have achieved so far?
I chair the REACH network in RDaSH which stands for Race Equality and Cultural Heritage. We have meetings once a month and these meetings take place to support ethnic minority staff. They have provided and continue to provide a safe space for staff to talk about their worries and concerns and have been particularly useful during the pandemic. The staff networks in RDaSH bring staff together and allow us to learn from the experiences of others from diverse backgrounds. In the future, I would like to see the network grow in its attendees and membership and would also like to see staff develop and grow in confidence.
How can we attract more BAME talent to roles in the NHS?
I believe that you can become what you see. I think we need to see more people from ethnic minority backgrounds in senior positions within the NHS infrastructure. This will be important for the upcoming talent entering the NHS who may strive to lead in the future. I also believe that advertising is important if you want adverts to be seen by people in these communities, you need to put in work to target those areas and let them know about the opportunities.
Why do you think BAME groups tend not to want to engage in healthcare research?
There are several complex reasons. Research hasn’t had the best history, particularly when it comes to ethnic minority participation in research studies. I think it is important to recognise and acknowledge this history but also reassure people that research governance has come a long way and that there are laws that protect people who wish to take part in research. I think it is important to build trust with communities and I share some of that background with the people I am trying to engage with.
Have any BAME colleagues inspired you with their actions during COVID-19?
Yes, I work with some amazing colleagues both in RDaSH and in the Clinical Research Network (CRN). The Ethnic minority Research Inclusion (EMRI) project group, sponsored by the CRN, have been very supportive and have really dedicated time and resource into this work to try and increase representation in research around some of the urgent public health research.
I have also been inspired by the other EMRI hub leads in Yorkshire and Humber (Alicia Cantrell and Jenny Abam Ubi) who do similar work to the work I do. One colleague who has inspired me in RDaSH is Dr Navjot Ahluwalia who is the Director of Research and the Executive Medical Director. Despite his level of responsibility and the uncertainty of the ever-changing pandemic, he always remains cool, calm, and collected and I aspire to be like that.
To find out more about the National BAME Health & Care Awards, please click here. To nominate yourself or someone else for an award for next year’s outing, click here.