"I am proud to have originated from a country of rich heritage and traditions and festivals to celebrate throughout the year"

To celebrate Black History Month, we asked our staff from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities to share their thoughts on what the month means to them, the centuries-long contribution of BAME communities to healthcare, and how Black history can be recognised and celebrated beyond just one month.   

Today, we hear from Vibha Teli, principal pharmacy technician for clinical trials.

The theme for this year’s Black History Month is ‘Proud To Be’, to encourage Black and Brown people to share what they are proud to be, in the context of culture, heritage and identity. What are you proud to be? 

Vibha Teli
Vibha Teli 

I am proud to have originated from a country of rich heritage and traditions and festivals to celebrate throughout the year. We have different languages, cultures, food, clothes, and traditions and yet we stand united. The messages of truth and non-violence, and India’s religious diversity makes me proud to be an Indian. I feel inspired and motivated by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. I love this quote by him: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” 

In my career I am proud to have achieved a higher qualification in research after striving hard for many years. This could not have been done without the support and encouragement of my family.

One-in-five of the NHS workforce comes from BAME backgrounds. How would you sum up the importance and contribution of BAME workers in healthcare?

BAME staff have and continue to play an essential role in the health of our nation, and this contribution must be fully acknowledged and recognised. Many members of my parents’ generation came to this country to study and work, with many occupying roles in the NHS in its early days – many taking on more junior roles than those they had previously held in their mother country. 

I joined the NHS in 1986 and have not looked back since. My first job was at University College Hospital, before joining Royal Brompton Hospital in 1988 as a senior pharmacy technician for drug information and clinical trials. The job was challenging but I loved the responsibility and working with amazing colleagues. My most satisfying contribution is being part of Royal Brompton’s research delivery team and working together to develop new treatments to improve the lives of our patients – today’s trial could be tomorrow’s drug!

What progress do you think still needs to be made to address race inequality in the workplace generally?

Unfortunately, there still is a long way to go to achieve equality for all in the workplace. There must be a safe and positive working environment for BAME staff. Organisations need to pay attention to the contribution that staff from BAME backgrounds make to their success, and this needs to be reflected in the composition of company boards where they are under-represented.  

On a positive note we now have a BAME staff network at Royal Brompton Hospital, which has been an incredible forum where we can share our experiences and issues affecting our work and professional development. I am extremely proud of my BAME colleagues who not only got the network off the ground but have worked tirelessly to build and maintain momentum – in the midst of the pandemic, no less

How do you think Black history, contribution and achievement can be recognised and taught throughout the year?

I believe that Black history, particularly Black British history, should be taught in its entirety in the national curriculum for all year groups. Only through education will subsequent generations appreciate and gain a complete understanding of the stories and the legacies of the people that history textbooks leave out. If children are to understand the present, they must first understand the past.

Next, hear from Stella Esan, staff nurse in adult intensive care, and co-chair of Royal Brompton and Harefield’s BAME staff network >