The HDR UK Black Internship Programme is making a real difference to the career opportunities for some of the country’s most talented young people.

This year an impressive 93 interns undertook eight-week placements with 54 host organisations.

As well as kickstarting individual careers it’s the healthcare sector and patients who benefit as the programme is helping close a national skills gap and ensuring that the health data research workforce increasingly reflects the population it serves.

The internships are invaluable in building the confidence of people from a severely under-represented group and giving them opportunities to develop professional networks with peers, academics, employers and others.

“The internship has given me so much in two months that I can’t even quantify it. It has instilled so much confidence in me,”
Adenrele Adekoya, a pharmacist now planning a career in health data science.

Ceremonies and celebrations

The opening and closing ceremonies held for each year’s cohort have developed into very special events – joyful celebrations of the programme and the people who make it happen. They bring together past and present interns, host organisations and members of the HDR UK research community to hear from inspirational speakers, network and have fun.

The Launch

In 2023 the day-long Opening Ceremony, at Birmingham City University, began with an uplifting performance from The Black Voices Quintet (listen here), led by Carol Pemberton MBE.

The keynote speaker was the renowned sociologist and youngest ever Black professor at the University of Cambridge, Jason Arday – a highly-respected scholar of race, inequality and education –  who gave a powerful talk about overcoming his personal challenges to achieve success (listen here).

“It’s not so much the pursuit of academia, it was more the pursuit of what I could do for other people and how I could use academia as a vehicle to meet that end,” Prof. Jason Arday.

The 120 attendees also heard from a panel of past interns and health data experts who shared insights into the world of health data with tips on how to make the most of a placement.

One reason the events are so successful is that former interns are central to the design, organising and delivery – using their own experience to make sure they are enjoyable and informative.

Among them was Nadia Blocker who helped organise the opening and closing ceremonies and was a panel member, host and speaker, sharing her own experiences.

The day was hosted Professor Louise Toner and the guests and speakers included:

“We were thrilled to welcome this year’s cohort of talented interns to the programme which is going from strength to strength. It was incredibly exciting for us to once again be supporting the next generation of health data scientists. A huge thank you to all of our host organisations for their support and commitment to helping ensure the programme’s success again this year,” Sarah Cadman, Programme Director – Capacity Building, HDR UK.

During the internships

The internships allow people to learn about health data science while carrying out their own research project – developing new skills and providing strong evidence of advanced skills for potential employers.

The programme also gets interns working together for our Technical Challenges contest, with awards given for the best at the end. In 2023 the challenges were centred on:

  • Mental health
  • A&E
  • Cancer care
  • Diabetes.

Interns were also invited to create poster presentations, allowing them to share the projects they had carried out.

“The internship programme helped open doors for my career aspirations. It’s so good to use my skills for real world problems,” Uzoma Ochulor.

Buzzing with energy

The Closing Ceremony, at The Wellcome Trust in London, brought together the 2023 cohort and their host organisation for an event that buzzed with energy.

Again there was a celebratory feel with a superb Caribbean-style lunch, poster presentations and awards given for the group technical challenge which was led by Lars Murdock, a data scientist from the BHF Data Science Centre, as well as opening remarks by HDR UK Director Professor Andrew Morris and a panel session chaired by Uzoma Ochulor, a former intern, where interns and host organisations from this year’s programme reflected on this year’s programme.

Other highlights included:

  • The presentation of certificates to all the interns
  • The launch of the Amazon and AWS mentoring programme that continues their development
  • CV advice sessions Gail Kniveton, Managing Director of the recruitment agency Pop Science
  • Advice from Chrissie Jones, Global Talent Partner for Owkin

The day was recorded by photographer Charli Payne and artist Jenny Leonard who created an image capturing key moments, thoughts and ideas.

“This programme has given me an opportunity to put my theory to use, get hands-on experience with real-world health data, and work with experts to provide better health solutions,” Christianah Ajala, intern with the Health Informatics Centre, University of Dundee.

Get involved in 2024

This programme is aimed at Black people who are studying an undergraduate degree or have recently graduated from a UK university.

It is run in partnership with the UK Health Data Research Alliance and 10,000 Black Interns, in order to tackle the underrepresentation of Black people in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers by providing opportunities to work on health data science projects with leading health, research and academic organisations.

Expressions of interest from interns and host organisations are now being accepted for the class of 2024. More information here.