Digital Health Summer Schools serves as a vital platform for healthcare professionals to exchange knowledge and experiences. However, their impact multiplies when they prioritise inclusivity and representation across all communities. Black and Asian women, often underrepresented in the healthcare industry, deserve a seat at these tables. Their voices, too long unheard, can reshape the landscape of healthcare.
According to a report by The King’s Fund, health inequalities persist between ethnic minority and white groups, as well as among different ethnic minority subgroups. Some ethnic minorities report poorer health and less satisfactory experiences with healthcare services compared to their white counterparts. This underscores the urgency of diverse representation in digital health conferences.
For Black and Asian women, attending this conference offers unique advantages. Here are my thoughts and top tips:
Pre event preparation
- Apply: By participating, you immerse yourself in a space teeming with like-minded individuals.
- Attend: Overcome nervousness, seek out a conference buddy, and actively engage in discussions.
- LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter): Set up profiles on these platforms. Whilst connecting via email is more effective, and you’ll learn about others in greater detail.
- Prepare your questions. The conference is a great opportunity to learn from experts and peers, so don’t be shy to ask questions during the sessions or during breaks.
During the conference
- Seek: Explore various groups attending—your crew might be waiting. Consider connecting with communities like the Shuri network, Health Innovation West Midlands, National Digital Shared Decision-making Council and the Midlands Digital Share Decision Making Council.
- Network: Prepare to be pleasantly surprised by the wealth of knowledge, talent, and experience you encounter.
- Connect: Remarkably, 1 in 10 conversations at these events leads to lasting connections. Sometimes less is more…
- Speak Up: As a woman of colour, recognise that you have a seat at the table. Market yourself and your work boldly.
- Feedback Matters: Constructive feedback fuels growth and improvement. The Shuri Network has gone from a lunchtime ‘add on’ to being tabled on the main agenda. I am hoping that their session next year will be tabled before lunch, preferably on Day 1.
- Take notes and photos. You will be exposed to a lot of new ideas and information, so it’s helpful to jot down some notes and take photos of the slides, posters, or products that interest you.
- Share your experience. You can use social media to share your thoughts, insights, and feedback about the conference with your online network.You can also follow the official conference hashtag.
- Have fun. The conference is not only about learning, but also about having fun and enjoying yourself.
- Dress comfortably. Unless you are dressing to impress, the conference venue is large and you will be walking a lot, so wear comfortable shoes and clothing. You might also want to bring a sweater or a jacket, as the temperature in the rooms can vary.
- Stay hydrated and energised. The conference days are long and packed with information, so it’s important to drink plenty of water and eat healthy snacks.I always bring a refillable water bottle as there are plenty of water stations around the venue.
- Reflect: Amid the whirlwind of information, take short walks during lunch and before dinner. Soothe your supercharged mind.
- Safety First: After the conference, ensure a safe journey home. The real community-building begins when you’re back, and genuine connections persist.
- Reflect and apply. After the conference, take some time to reflect on what you have learned and how you can apply it to your practice.You can also follow up with the people you have met and the speakers you have heard, to continue the dialogue and the learning. Note: If you’ve emailed me, I will be in touch to arrange a follow up Teams call, if I haven’t done so, please do give me a nudge.
- Repeat: Mark your calendar for the next Digital Summer School in 12 months. Keep the momentum going!
Words of encouragement
- Conferences are not just events; they’re catalysts for lasting impact.
- Diversity fuels innovation, and digital health conferences are fertile ground for cultivating it.
I will leave you with these wise words by Oprah Winfrey, a remarkable black entrepreneur and inventor.
“I am where I am because of the bridges that I crossed. Sojourner Truth was a bridge. Harriet Tubman was a bridge. Ida B. Wells was a bridge. Madame C. J. Walker was a bridge. Fannie Lou Hamer was a bridge.”
These words remind us that our achievements are built upon the legacy of those who paved the way before us. Let their resilience and innovation inspire our own journey!
Kumbi Kariwo is a registered Learning Disability Nurse and has worked in the NHS for 22 years. In this time, she has taken up a number of roles within community settings as her passion has been to improve patient/service user experience when accessing health care through education with a focus on early prevention.
In 2016 she set up the Young Peoples Sexual Health Service. This Service was nominated for the NHS Parliamentary Awards and commended by CQC as one of the services making a difference to address inequalities in Birmingham.
Inequalities have always been present in our communities however Covid-19 has further highlighted the disparity to equal access in relation to health and social need.
In 2021, Kumbi was successfully appointed as the first Chief of Nursing Fellow at Birmingham Community Health Care Trust where she spent 18 months developing her clinical excellence and research capacity within Digital Health and Health Inequalities. Her continued aim as an Equality and Inclusion Project Lead, is to utilise her knowledge, experience and skillset in addressing patient inequalities and access to services.
Chair: Midlands Digital Shared Decision-Making Council for Nurses, Midwives & AHPs
Florence Nightingale Foundation Innovation and Entrepreneurship
National Digital Shared Decision-Making Council – Midlands Representative
Shuri Network Member
Queens Nursing Institute Research Forum
Trojan Mouse (Steady and incremental approach to transformation) Award at the Healthcare Excellence Through Technology
Kariwo.K., Chapman.M., Oozageer Gunowa,N., (2023) Wounds International: How does skin tones affect staff confidence when dealing with pressure ulcers, Vol 14 Issue 2 https://woundsinternational.com/journal-articles/how-does-skin-tones-affect-staff-confidence-when-dealing-with-pressure-ulcers/
Dhoonmoon, L., Fletcher, J., Atkin, L., Bagdadi,N., Enoc, M., Kariwo,K., Marshall, A., Neesha Oozageer Gunowa,N., Pankhurst,S., Sidambe,V., Spencer.,S., (2021) Wounds UK: Best Practice Statement Addressing skin tone bias in wound care: assessing signs and symptoms in people with dark skin tones. https://www.wounds-uk.com/resources/details/addressing-skin-tone-bias-wound-care-assessing-signs-and-symptoms-people-dark-skin-tones