Celebrating Black British Contributions to Healthcare
by Olamide Dada
For many years, black history in the medical sphere has been dominated by the achievements and celebrations of African Americans in medicine. As a black medical student in the United Kingdom, I wondered why black British contributions to medicine had very rarely been recognised.
I am greatly inspired by the great achievements of African Americans in medicine; although I may not agree with his political standing, Ben Carson was one of the main reasons I decided to pursue a career in medicine. I know for many black medical students and doctors in the UK, seeing the achievements of fellow black brits who have been pioneers in medicine in times past and the present day would help to empower and inspire them
Black History Month is a momentous time in the Melanin Medics calendar. As an organisation that consistently looks to amplify the voices of Black African and Caribbean medical students and doctors in the UK, celebrating the great individuals who have made great contributions to healthcare is key. It was great to be able to pursue this as my campaign project during my time as a scholar at The HLA. It was important to have a campaign that represented the creative identity of Melanin Medics as well as appealed to our target audience and was an educative and empowering resource.
The focus was clear; “Learn from the past, embrace the present and look to the future.” The aim was to raise awareness of Black British contributions to healthcare both past and present and to create conversation about the contribution of ethnic minorities within healthcare.
The campaign was active over the period of 1 month (October 2019). We created profiles of individuals from the UK showcasing Black British Pioneers in Healthcare from the past as well as Black British Contributions to Healthcare in this present day and age. We shared these profiles across all of our social media channels.
To celebrate the Black British Contributions to Healthcare, we recognised three individuals: Yvonne Coghill, Martin Griffiths and Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu. We wanted to ensure that our audience were made aware of amazing individuals of African and Caribbean heritage who have impacted our healthcare system in the present day and who deserve to be remembered for generations to come.
African and Caribbean healthcare professionals have formed an integral part of the NHS’ history. Despite their long history of work within the health service in the United Kingdom, very rarely are the contributions of Black African and Caribbean healthcare professionals recognised and highlighted in discussions of the history of the healthcare system. We also showcased Black British Pioneers in Healthcare celebrating individuals such as Mary Seacole, Lord David Pitt, Kofoworola Abeni Pratt, Dr Eddie Adam, Dr Franklyn Jacobs, Dr Victor Eastmond, Dr John Alcindor and Dr Harold Moody.
On reflection, it was considerably difficult to gather the necessary information as this topic area had not been very well documented which resulted in the research process being quite laborious.
The black history month campaign was a great tool to boost knowledge on a topic which was not very well known. One of the key things I learned was that an effective campaign is one in which the content is timeless. Irrespective of the time, the message still rings true. The content that had been created was timeless and has proven to be of interest during various points in the year.
It was great to be able to further explore this topic through hosting a HLA Live session with Melanin Medics and the Healthcare Leadership Academy. The session was a focused panel discussion exploring the influence of African and Caribbean healthcare professionals on the NHS. We were joined by a highly esteemed panel of speakers with a great array of experience between them including Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, Francis Day-Stirk, Dr Andrew Alalade, Dr Rochelle Pierre, Dr Jonathan Makanjuola, Dr Segn Nedd and Jacob Oguntimehin.
Being able to continue the conversation even beyond Black History Month was a great achievement and necessary action.
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Olamide Dada is a Final Year Medical Student, the Founder and Chief Executive of Melanin Medics and a HLA Mentor. Twitter: @olamide_dada LinkedIn: Olamide Dada
This campaign was awarded third place in The HLA scholarship awards 2019-20. You can see the campaign video here.