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Internships forge a new future for black people in health research

Internships forge a new future for black people in health research

A group of researchers taking part in a Black Internship scheme at the University of Nottingham are urging other students and graduates from Black African, Caribbean and Black British backgrounds to follow their example in the future.

With backgrounds as pharmacists, clinicians and public heath graduates, the interns have just successfully completed 6-week placements working in healthcare data research for the university’s Digital Research Service (DRS).  

The DRS is a team of experienced software engineers, research scientists and data analysts who work with academics across the university, leading national and international research projects.

10,000 Black Interns is a nationwide initiative working alongside Health Data Research UK to facilitate the Black Internship Programme. The programme aims to boost the number of scientists from this greatly under-represented group working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). The Digital Research Service is signed up to the scheme as part of its wider commitment to tackling the under-representation of ethnic minorities in these areas.

Black Internship Programme Lead at the university, Dr Grazziela Figueredo, said:

“The mutual benefits of these internships cannot be underestimated. Our four recent candidates very quickly became a core part of the Digital Research Service team which benefitted greatly from their work, ideas and input. In return the interns received essential hands-on training, mentorship and now enjoy the prospect of a flourishing career in health data research. Indeed, Myron Odingo, a post-doctoral researcher already working at the university, will be collaborating with us as a direct result of his internship.”

Professor Philip Quinlan, Director of Health Informatics and Head of the Digital Research Service, said:

“I am very pleased that we were involved in the HDR's Black Internship programme. It is a small step, but it is one that is so important for us all. Diversity in healthcare research and the datasets analysed by healthcare researchers is vital if we are going to make breakthroughs that benefit the whole population. It was such a pleasure to see the enthusiasm and energy from the interns and it demonstrates why we must find new ways of empowering the clinical workforce that is not simply via traditional academic routes."

The Black Interns say the value of their recent placements cannot be underestimated. Myron Odingo said:

“The Black Interns Programme provided valuable insight into the world of health data science. I was able to participate in ongoing projects at Health Data Research UK, while the entire cohort received training, mentorship and advice from seasoned professionals in the field. I am grateful to have been part of the first cohort of interns and appreciate the value the programme provides in introducing underrepresented minority groups to data science. In future, I hope that there will be more training and employment avenues tied to the programme that participants can take advantage of following the internship.”

Fellow intern, Evans Zoyah, said:

“I had an amazing and fulfilling six weeks at the University of Nottingham. Skills-wise, I have gained new skills in data standardisation and significantly improved my data management, academic writing, and team-working skills after participating in some on-going projects at the university.

“Personally, my most important takeaway from the internship is the confidence that it has reignited in myself and my career prospects. The job market is very competitive and can be quite depressing. And as a graduate striving to succeed in an uncharted field, sometimes, you need that reassurance that you are good enough. That was exactly what this internship provided for me.”

Afolabi Ayomidele said his internship was an invaluable opportunity to learn new skills on the job:

“I have found the internship very insightful and informative. While I did not have a strong background in coding, I did not feel like it was a barrier in the internship as an online training scheme was provided at the start. It has really helped me to see how coding can be used to quickly find trends within data and help spot things within large data sets. This opportunity has made me optimistic for the use of computer science in the health sector”.

A video interview with the four Black Interns on their placements at the Digital Research Service is available here:

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