I first came to St George’s in 2001 to work as a research assistant for a cardiovascular/reproduction research group. Since then I have been away from George’s for about four or five years in total but I always seem to come back. This place is a lodestone…
I’ve spent all of my life in London, which is a shame because I do like people who are different than me. I would have liked to have lived elsewhere for a time, maybe abroad, but that being said, as a woman of colour there really is no better place for me to live and ‘be me’ than London.
I’m a Londoner, born and brought up in Angel, Islington 50 years ago. My family were poor, one could say impoverished, but what we lacked in monetary terms we made up for with aspirations.
I mention aspirations because, whilst I do understand the difficulties and challenges that BAME people face, I also feel that the biggest barrier to progress - and the most dangerous thing for our young people - isn’t colour, it’s poverty… a poverty of aspirations. You have to be hungry for something, you have to aspire to something! It’s true for any person of any colour.
Okay, I’ll get off my pedestal now!
I think it’s important to say that, whilst I had aspirations when I was young, what I did not have was direction or focus. That’s because I had no role models growing up. I really feel that I have evolved into the person I am today through the circumstances I have found myself in - I haven’t followed a planned route or pathway. As an adult I’m inspired in so many ways; by my colleagues and friends….it’s so important to be open and receptive to change, especially in yourself. It’s the only way you can enrich your life and live well.
There have definitely been challenges - social challenges, emotional challenges, financial challenges but from the perspective of colour the biggest challenge I’ve faced, and still do, is Unconscious Bias – I see it here at George’s.
I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have people assume they know what my reaction or what my position will be on an issue, and then to prime all further interactions with me around that incorrect assumption. It drives me mad!
To compound it, in sensing that frustration in me, I am then labelled as aggressive. I’m sure I’m not the first assertive black woman to be labelled as aggressive, and I won’t be the last. So, if I could change anything with my magic wand, it would be that!
But St Georges has provided me with so many opportunities over the years, and also support. I wouldn’t be where I am without the early support of Professors Judith Cartwright and Guy Whitley, whose egalitarian approach to research allowed me to grow scientifically and developed skills that I am finding so beneficial now.
St George’s is great, it’s a part of me and I am committed to it. I love the diversity of staff and students and I especially love working with students in small groups. They show me so much and I am always impressed with their abilities at such a young age. They give me hope that the world isn’t only populated by young people who are mentally comatose by fortnite!
I am proud of the contributions I have made to research integrity development whilst being the Integrity Lead and Chair of the Universities Research Ethics Committee - creating environments where we can all do better is where I draw my energy from.
As does doing a good job. If something is worth doing, do it properly. It really is more efficient in the long run and the effects are longer lasting. Plus, it’s your legacy isn’t it. I can’t think of anything worse than my colleagues thinking ‘don’t give the job to Sandra, you’ll never get it done!’ Integrity is important to me, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important matters either”…Albert Einstein said that , and he was right!
At St Georges my role has evolved overtime. I’ve worked in Labs all this time and I’m now transitioning into the more administrative side of research support. I want to help others do their best. That’s what brings me satisfaction, knowing that I’m making the environment better so that we all can thrive.