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University welcomes new Black Health Data Scientist interns

The University of Leicester is to welcome two new Black Health Data Scientist interns to BREATHE: Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health, who have been recruited as part of a UK-wide initiative run by Health Data Research UK (HDR UK).

Two students from the University of Leicester, postgraduate Actuarial Science student Wayne Matengo and undergraduate Mathematics student Rahma Said, form part of a cohort of 54 successful interns across the UK who applied for a place on HDR UK’s annual Black internship programme. More than a hundred applications were received.

As part of the six-week internship, the two interns will have the opportunity to work on some of the most cutting edge research being undertaken at the University, including machine learning to advance personalised medicine in mesothelioma and using linked electronic healthcare records to define severe asthma in participants of the EXCEED Study and UK Biobank.

Professor Martin Tobin Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Leicester, Chair of the Leicester Precision Medicine Institute and Honorary Consultant in Public Health, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and Public Health England, who is leading on the initiative at Leicester said:

“The University of Leicester is proud to support this important initiative. We are delighted to be partnering with Health Data Research UK to build the next generation of health data scientists; with this programme we will be helping to ensure that health data science becomes a more inclusive career prospect.

“This initiative will help to create better representation within the health data science communities by creating more opportunities for those groups to be involved in this vital work.

“We look forward to welcoming Wayne and Rahma on board.”

Postgraduate Actuarial Science student and new intern Wayne Matengo said: “The human body is a complex system that generates tons of data every second of its existence. Through healthcare research, one can learn more about the underlying processes of this complex system, but with data science, one can tell the story behind each statistic. 

“Ultimately, everyone has a story to tell and inside me is a natural storyteller waiting to be released to bring the ideas and imagination that can save the future generations”.

Undergraduate Mathematics student and new intern Rahma Said said: “I’m most looking forward to learning about health data research approaches and how technological and mathematical techniques can be applied”.

Caroline Cake, CEO of HDR UK said: “We are really looking forward to welcoming the 54 interns this summer to the exciting field of health data science. 

“It is wonderful that so many opportunities have been created by organisations from the UK Health Data Research Alliance. I hope that for many of these interns, this will be the start of a long and successful career in health data science.”

The internship will provide a six-week programme (from 28 June – 6 August 2021) of paid work experience to future Black data scientists - a group currently under-represented within the health data research community.

The University of Leicester has been at the forefront of pioneering research during the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been awarded more than £10m of UKRI funding for its studies into post COVID hospitalisation and the effect of the virus on ethnic minority healthcare workers.

The University of Leicester is proud to be one of the most diverse universities in the UK, with 56.3% of its students coming from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Leicester has called for the University to set the standard for inclusion in higher education.

Upon joining the University in November 2019, he pledged to eliminate the ‘awarding gap’, which is the difference between the number of white UK students awarded first-class or 2:1 degrees compared to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic UK students. The University currently has an awarding gap of 7.59% compared with the national 13%.

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