IMSR Black History Month: Reflections from Miriam Addo

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Miriam Addo is Chairperson of the African-Caribbean Medical Society at the University of Birmingham. In this blog post she shares her reflections of IMSR’s recent Black History Month event…

Image of panellists involved with the Black History Month Event

Miriam Addo writes:

In celebration of Black History Month 2020, The IMSR hosted a virtual panel discussion of which I was honoured to be chair.  Panellists included Prof. Dale Abel (Department Executive Officer of Internal Medicine at the University of Iowa and Chair of the Endocrine Society), Prof. Donita Africander (Associate Professor of Stellenbosch University, South Africa), Dr. John Allotey (Lecturer in Epidemiology and Women’s Health at the WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Women’s Health within the Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research), and Ms. Alicia Bossey (MSc student at the IMSR).

The aims of this event were to highlight the contributions of Black scientists to our research themes (both at Birmingham and beyond) through recognising the achievements of our panellists in their career paths to date. The event was also engineered to encourage a discussion with our audience about the challenges of being a Black scientist and possible ways to tackle some of the issues raised.

The panel discussion was a great success indeed. A brief summary of the salient discussion points are as below:

  • The current demand for targeted mentoring strategies for young aspiring Black scientists and the importance of meeting these demands.
  • Pitfalls of the current measures employed to improve Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in academic institutions including tokenism, and the phenomenon knowns as “black tax”.
  • Inter-university peer support networks and reverse mentoring programmes as more effective and sustainable channels of support for student and trainee scientists.
  • Barriers to pursuing intercalated degrees amongst medical students and possible ways to overcome these, including increasing the representation of Black lecturers in the pre-clinical phases of the medical curriculum and improving visibility of Black students who had recently graduated from intercalation programmes.
  • Building resilience and navigating elitist, and white-dominant academic spaces as a Black scientist.

On behalf of the IMSR, I would like to extend our gratitude to all panellists and attendees. We hope that you left the event feeling inspired, motivated and better equipped to incite positive change in your respective spheres of influence.