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International Women's Day: "By supporting others, we build them up."

Jo Morgan

This International Women’s Day, we hear from Jo Morgan, clinical research facility operations director at Barts Health NHS Trust, about her career to date, the challenges she’s faced and the support she’s had.

“I started my healthcare career in the biotech industry where I spent my time selling research products, like reagents for experiments, to scientists working in the pharmaceutical industry. At that point in my career, I wasn’t really aware of the research going on in the NHS.

“But then, I had an experience with my mother which made me stop and think.

“My mother was in a lot of pain for a while, so she decided to get checked out. She had a mammogram and some consultations with doctors, but unfortunately, her cancer was missed. It meant that by the time she was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was terminal.

“The experience got me thinking about how could I, in my own small way, contribute to making a difference in the NHS and to the people it serves? I wasn’t sure what that would look like, but I knew I had to start somewhere, and at least get my foot in the door.

“The first role I applied for in the NHS was to be a PA. I knew it would be a good starting point and would help me get to know the organisation. But, when the hiring manager looked at my application, they advised me to apply for a role as a research governance officer instead. That was at Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust, now known as Imperial College NHS Trust. I was always really interested in how discoveries and developments made in labs became treatments or tests that help patients, so it seemed like the perfect role. I was thrilled when I was offered it because it really helped me to understand the types of research taking place in the NHS and how it all works.”

“From there, I was appointed to commercial research manager, before I made the move to work at Whipps Cross Hospital, where I was appointed in a dual-role. I was appointed as the associate director of research development, looking after the development of research across Barts Health, and the operations lead for two clinical research facilities at the trust, one at Whipps Cross Hospital, the other at The Royal London Hospital.

“My tasks were to develop our National Institute for Health and Care Research portfolio of studies and commercially sponsored trials, support research teams to grow to deliver their studies, troubleshoot challenges and provide leadership to our research units. It was a lot to take on, but I really loved it and felt I could make a difference. Excitingly, I’ve been given the opportunity to use my skills in a new way and to learn more in my new role – a secondment into the role of clinical research facility operations director at the Trust.

“There have been times in my career when it has been challenging, and I’m sure it will be challenging again in the future. But I’ve been lucky to have some brilliant mentors who always gave me great advice, and I was given lots of opportunities to shadow people and learn from them, which I always did.

“One challenging area throughout my career has been identifying and addressing the possible microaggressions that arise from me being a Black woman, including the odd occasion when I’ve felt it has been difficult to be heard and taken seriously. Fortunately, I’ve been supported, including via leadership programmes, to identify and address these challenges, and overall, I do not feel I have been held back in my career because of the colour of my skin or because I am a woman.

“Very few women can say this, and I am incredibly blessed to have advocates in my immediate working circle who support me in so many ways. This International Women’s Day, I encourage all women to do the same for other women in their circles, be it in their personal life or their working life. By supporting others, we build them up and create a sense of unity and community that is simply amazing.”

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.