Dr Ruth Ngozika Agbakoba on the importance of Black History Month
25 October 2019
Dr Ruth Ngozika Agbakoba is a Honorary Research Associate at the UCL Institute of Health Informatics and a Digital Health Engagement Lead within the Clinical Research Informatics Unit (CRIU) at University College London Hospitals (UCLH). She is leading on the design, implementation and evaluation of an innovative clinical trials discovery platform to be deployed across the entire trust of hospitals. Ruth was awarded her PhD from the University of Glasgow and has a background in health informatics and digital health with current interests focused on translational research (translating research findings into practice) and Global eHealth policy to foster person-centred care. In recognition of Black History Month 2019 Ruth is delighted to share an insight into being a social scientist in academia and the importance of promoting BAME women in STEM fields.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
I believe that Black History Month is a fundamental part of British History which deserves to be recognised and celebrated widely. It is a time for reflecting on the diverse histories of those from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) descent. Specifically, it is a time to celebrate contributions and achievements to the social, political, economic and cultural development of the United Kingdom. Black History Month is for everyone!
What does it mean to you to be a BAME women in STEM?
For many years women have been underrepresented in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) workforce. The statistics are quite alarming but we're moving in the right direction with the introduction of Athena Swan in 2005 which has demonstrated the need to commit to advancing the careers of all women in higher education and research in STEM. However, there is more work to be done regarding the representation of BAME women in STEM which is crucial. Young girls preparing for their GCSE’s, A-Levels or applying to University must be taught about Black History as part of the curriculum and they should see BAME faces represented in STEM in order to truly reflect diversity, equality and inclusion. I have recently joined to become a STEM Ambassador (follow them on Twitter: @STEMAmbassadors) as a means to make an impact in my local community. The IHI have an Athena Swan Committee which I am delighted to be a part of and you can find more information about us here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/health-informatics/about-institute/athena-swan
Do you have any prominent figures you particuarly think should be celebrated?
Mary Seacole, a Pioneering Nurse
Claudia Jones, Founder of Notting Hill Carnival
Olive Morris a Political Activist
Baroness Lawrence OBE, Campaigned for Reforms to Police Service
Dianne Abbott, First Black Woman to hold seat in House of Commons
Malorie Blackman, British Writer, Children’s Laureate
Do you have any inspiring words or take home messages?
Every single person brings a unique value to an organisation and there is strength in diversity! I have recently launched an online blog called Secure the PhD (@SecureThePhD on twitter) which aims to support PhD Students and Early Career Researchers to be able to come together, share experiences, learn and draw inspiration from each other. I know that the PhD journey can be isolating at times and therefore this platform is here to provide that much needed support and encouragement. We particularly promote Women in STEM and empower students from BAME groups.
If you would like to know more about Black History events taking place at UCL, see below:
Events at UCL and local area:
28th October – Decolonise UCL Meeting and ‘Everything Must Fall’ Film Screening
29th October – My Neighbourhood is killing me
30th October – Word Up: An evening of Spoken Word
You can find more about these events from the UCL Black Students Union: http://studentsunionucl.org/black-history-month-2019
Did you know that in 1826 University College London was the first university in England to open its doors to students of any race, class or religion and by 1878 it had become the first English university to welcome female students on equal terms with men. In this respect UCL prides itself on being one of the world’s leading multi-disciplinary universities and I am proud to be a part of UCL.