Regardless of WHAT we do in our lives, our WHY—our driving purpose, cause or belief—never changes. We can create tangible things that those who believe what we believe can point to and say, “That’s why I’m inspired.” – Simon Sinek, ‘Starting with the why’

At Health Data Research UK, our mission – to unite the UK’s health data to enable discoveries that improve people’s lives – is exactly why many of us chose to work here.  In the first of our new regular Insights, Communications and Engagement (I.C.E) breaker events, we heard about the importance of leading with this ‘why’ to drive engaging communications.

Our I.C.E Breaker Sessions were born following an HDR UK team trip to the Wellcome Genome Campus in Cambridge to meet the Wellcome Sanger and EMBL-EBI communications teams. We discussed ways of working over coffee, motivations and challenges over lunch, and have stayed in touch with the teams since.

It was absolutely brilliant to see colleagues in person after so long of virtual meetings. We came away feeling invigorated and inspired and we knew it was a feeling we wanted to repeat, to keep sharing learnings and creating discussions in this way as much as possible.

From this, we created our first I.C.E. Breaker event, ‘Impact – Starting with the Why’ – aimed at bringing Insights, Communications and Engagement colleagues together to share learnings, generate discussions around particular topics, and, more importantly, to network and get to know each other better.

Held earlier this month, our first speaker was Suzy Gallier, Head of Informatics Research & Commercial Development at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and Deputy Director of PIONEER hub – the health data research hub for acute care. Suzy is known to always be looking for innovative uses of technology and data for PIONEER to ensure the services offered are cutting edge. And by ‘starting with the why’ with every decision, she makes sure the PIONEER mission of improving patient care stays at the very heart of this work.

Suzy explained how helping her team focus on the why – before the what or the how – has helped them feel truly engaged in the driving force behind PIONEER. If we know why we do what we do every day, then we are able to communicate and demonstrate this within our work much more effectively than just turning up to work each day without a driving force of beliefs and passion.

“It was fantastic to be able to meet communications colleagues from across health research again. Having not been able to meet and network for around two years, I was so glad to get the chance to travel from Leicester for this session. We’ve all been dealing with changes brought about by the pandemic and it was great to have the opportunity share our struggles and wins to learn from one another as we all collectively move forward. Both speakers presented with confidence, passion, and wisdom and presented learnings that were almost universally applicable to people in the room regardless of their organisation. Our team is definitely excited to attend similar events in the future.” – Dr Siân Thanangadan, Communications and Engagement Officer, NIHR Leicester BRC and CRF


“I appreciated the good combination of interesting speakers and quality of the discussions that had inspired and gained fresh perspective. The session provided great networking opportunities while at the same time, shared experiences, and thoughts, as well as learnt from others. Thank you very much for this excellent time!” – Stephanie Lee, Head of Marketing, Communication & Engagement Services, Population Data Science, Swansea University Medical School

We were also joined by Steve Palmer, Director of Communications for Wellcome Sanger Institute and Wellcome Genome Campus. Steve is responsible for media relations, internal communications, publications, digital and social content, and also brand. Steve’s background is in journalism, so he gave a different but complimentary outlook on ‘starting with the why’, drawing on his recent experience of launching a new five-year strategy for the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

Steve discussed how internal staff can and should be a company’s greatest advocates. Before launching the new strategy externally, he focused on engaging internal staff – speaking to them about why they’re here, and encouraging this to be their driving force as Sanger delivered their next five-year strategy. His approach has received positive feedback both internally and externally.

“It was great to attend the first ever I.C.E Breaker event – I came away inspired by the fantastic speakers. It was also incredibly valuable to speak to others working to promote health data research across the UK and the benefits it can bring to all of our lives. I look forward to developing these new connections. It’s a great forum to learn from and participate in a growing network of impact and engagement professionals with a shared vision.” – Chris Roberts, Senior Impact and Engagement Officer, Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank, Secure eResearch Platform (SeRP)


“I really enjoyed the first (of many I hope!) ICE breaker sessions. Hearing from both Suzy and Steve was really interesting and motivational. It really cemented how important comms and engagement is for any organisation – and particularly the health sector. It also really validated the importance of the patient voice in a comms strategy. It was lovely to be able to network afterwards at the pub!” – Judy Slape, Patient and Public Involvement Lead, Imperial College Health Partners

On the day, we were joined by over 30 colleagues from the UK-wide health, research, science and charity sectors from across communications, public involvement, events, marketing, insights, research and engagement. After hearing from our two speakers, we had a dynamic Q&A session and then headed to the pub for an evening of networking to complete an extremely inspiring afternoon.

From the I.C.E team at HDR UK, we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who attended, especially those who travelled far to join us. Also, thank you to our speakers – who reminded us of the importance of remembering not only why we started working in this industry but why we continue to give it our all every day – “our driving purpose, cause or belief that allows those who believe what we believe to point to and say, “That’s why I’m inspired.”

Our next I.C.E breaker session will be in October with the theme to be decided, please let us know of any ideas you might have by filling in this survey: