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North West Coast celebrate Black History Month with the Network's Research Taskforce

North West Coast celebrate Black History Month with the Network's Research Taskforce

North West Coast celebrate Black History Month with the Network's Research Taskforce 

Last month the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and their ethnicity sub-group published a paper on the drivers of higher morbidity and mortality. It has prompted the Clinical Research Network: North West Coast to consider what the findings mean and how we plan future research to serve all our communities.

October is Black History Month and the Network has taken the opportunity to celebrate diversity amongst our research staff and at the same time understand if there is anything we can do to build stronger links to local communities and thereby deliver research that serves our communities better.

This week we have talked to Nathalie and Phil, part of the Network’s Research Taskforce. Despite being flat out delivering urgent COVID-19 research so that we can end this pandemic, they have still taken the time to share their inspiring stories and leave us with some important messages to consider how we plan future research. 

Tell us a little about yourselves, how your career in research nursing came about and who inspired you along the way?

Nathalie:

I love to spend time in the garden and I am a bit of a cleaning enthusiast! I was recruited by the government to help fill the nursing shortage in 2005.  Growing up I had no ambition to be a nurse.  I wanted to be a geologist, and pursued relevant subjects’ pathway to study in this field. However, during my last year in secondary school my mom was diagnosed with diabetes and suffered a hypoglycaemic episode.  I did not know basic first aid or what to do.  It was a frightening experience and I felt helpless.  I could identify the clouds, narrate facts about hurricanes and earthquakes but knew nothing to help my mom.  It was at that point, I decided I wanted to help my mom and other people.  My mom is the reason I am a nurse today.  My route into research came after looking for a change from the Intensive Care setting, but I wasn’t sure which area I wanted to branch into.  In 2016, I received a call from a consultant who was recruiting for a research company and saw my CV online.  I attended an interview and was successful.  My role as a research nurse further developed from there.  It allowed me opportunities to work with patients, health professionals and other health partners towards improving patient care and practice.

Phil:

My childhood years were spent growing up in the Liverpool 8 area which was predominately known for its large black community.  Both my parents were from large families in the community, on my street you would be known by every house, as you would know who lived in each house.  Racial tensions and inequalities in Toxteth during the 80’s are well documented.  However, I recall a great sense of community spirit during those years.  My dad often had words of wisdom to impart on us all, much of which became much clearer in adulthood, such as, ‘it takes a village to raise a man.’  Or ‘a child does not grow up only in a single home.’ Meaning regardless of a child's biological parents, their upbringing belongs to the community.

Looking back I think my interest in nursing began as a teenager.  I had a paper round at the age of 14, and one house would always have a glossy magazine on the side.  The magazine was the Nursing Times and the covers always appeared so interesting.  I attended a comprehensive senior school and for my work experience they offered me a placement at McDonalds. I was so disappointed, there were hospital placements available but despite my request they went to other people. Access or opportunities for black people were very difficult at that time.  However, I did not give up on my dream to be a nurse.  I knocked on her door the very next paper I posted and she answered.  She literally opened the door for me into the world of nursing.

Within nursing I have been able to follow my passion and work within the field of oncology.  There are so many inspirational people on the way but after 12 years of service it was Professor Carlo Palmieri that inspired me to go into research.  In research I now get the chance to work alongside visionaries, to help change practice and the world.

How could the Clinical Research Network become more diverse and represent all the communities we serve?

Nathalie:

Having recently joined the Network it is evident there is so much great collaborative work being done across the region, nationally and internationally.  However, we can become more diverse in the Network by implementing “Positive Action Workforce Schemes.”  In organisations where this was introduced, there were progressive benefits to the organisation and wider area.  This could have positive impact, develop more opportunities and trust in the community.  The Black and Minority Ethnic communities in the Liverpool City Region and the wider North West Coast area, have so much knowledge, skills and dynamicity which could help in research.  We can do more to engage communities to help share information and to better understand research.  Thereby helping increase the number of research volunteers and research ambassadors we work with.  

Phil:

Unfortunately, I receive a lot of feedback from the people in Black and Minority Ethnic communities who still feel and suffer inequalities.  With all types of government organisations from the justice system, schooling, housing and healthcare, including access to clinical trials - the trust is often lost and I believe that is what we need to build, people’s trust. It is insincere to call on people to help when they feel constantly overlooked or ignored.

During this pandemic it has been great to see communities grow to know each other again.  In this fast paced world, were everyone has become so busy.  It has been refreshing to see people have time for each other.  Research is about pioneering new ways and we need to have a community engagement revolution.  We need more trust from the community and develop that real sense of integration within the community.  We need to work within the community and have a presence that is not only seen, but also felt for the common good.  Not as a one off, because of a pandemic but an opportunity to establish real long standing relationships that are beneficial to all.

Can you leave us with an important message from Black History Month to help us with our future plans for research?

Nathalie:

There are so many trendsetters, pioneers and community leaders who work and highlight black history in our Liverpool City Region.  Although Black History Month is only celebrated nationally during the month of October, many from the black community celebrate Black History Month every day of our life.  As a research nurse from an ethnic minority background, there is so much about the black culture that can help enhance research so now have the opportunity to share with all, througout the year.

Phil:

In Liverpool and the wider North West Coast region we have a pool of talented, clever, caring, inspirational, pioneers, educated professionals, that have always migrated to this city or been born here. Howard Gayle, John Conteh, George Christian to name a few. We can celebrate the work that is being done in research and black inspirational pioneers from our region, past and present. 

Are you a community leader who would like to understand how research can deliver health benefits for your community? 

Please contact Greg Woodley, Communications and Engagement Lead, Clinical Research Network: North West Coast via email on greg.woodley@nihr.ac.uk

References: 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/drivers-of-the-higher-covid-19-incidence-morbidity-and-mortality-among-minority-ethnic-groups-23-september-2020