Christiana Melam: "If you hold yourself to a high standard, then anything is possible"
LSBU’s location was convenient for me and the flexibility they offered on my Masters in Public Health and Health Promotion allowed me to feel like I was getting a 2 for 1 course. I was able to volunteer at a hospital and work at the same time, plus the support they offer you to complete your studies was great.
Education plays an important role in society. Studying in a diverse environment gets you comfortable with differences, so it’s not a surprise when you go into the workplace and interact with people from different backgrounds for the first time. The understanding amongst LSBU students was clear: there was inclusivity across the board.
You need passion and commitment
I've kept in touch with a couple of staff members, like my supervisor Dr Susie Sykes, who taught one of my modules. She is an inspiring woman; she taught while she was pregnant and completing her PhD. She is very supportive of my work. I’m currently the CEO at National Association of Link Workers, Link Workers are powering up community wellbeing and reducing health inequalities. The work I do is on the national agenda and I reconnected with Susie based on this work.
When I graduated, I was still active in LSBU. I connected with Prof Becky Malby, a Professor in Health Systems Innovation at LSBU. She leads the Health Systems Innovation Lab. We are both change agents, and she was a speaker at our 9th October #LinkWorkerDay2020 annual conference. I joined LSBU’s The People's Academy, whose aim is to revolutionise health and social care through citizens collaborating and participating in advocacy and co-production of education, research and innovation. Through this, I was able to work with Dr Anita Atwal, Associate Professor of Interprofessional Learning, and lecturers to co-design and deliver interprofessional learning modules to health and social care students at the University. I have an interest in education and grassroots-led approaches. Students reviewed the courses with great success. Several publications referenced this innovative way of teaching, including The Royal College of Nurses.
I’m a very ambitious go-getter and I love a challenge. I don’t stand still; it’s natural to me to be innovative and busy. I don’t think it’s just about going out and getting a job, you need passion and commitment for what you want to do.
Giving people the opportunity
It's so important to get experience so you can channel your energy, and define what you want from a career. There's a difference between job title and job role. What you're expected to do and what you end up doing can be very different things. If you're in a job and don't understand the context of what you're doing, you will struggle. The skills you gain when at university are very transferrable, but you need to experience different environments. Bad jobs are part of your journey. They help you find your purpose; when you reflect you’ll see how that experience helped shape you. Anything you do counts towards your progression. It’s about how you demonstrate what you learn. There are lots of jobs I’ve done that have helped develop my hunger. Now that I’m an employer I know I want to make things right for those who have had bad jobs.
I get a lot of satisfaction from my role as CEO of National Association of Link Workers. Social prescribing link workers' social model of health is giving people the power to take control of their health and wellbeing. It’s humanising the NHS and enabling GPs to empower their patients with the confidence and knowledge to self-manage and take control of their life. I want social prescribing link workers to be in every GP and hospital across the UK, so that we provide holistic service to patients. We already have thousands of link workers, but I want to see that number grow in the UK and internationally. Currently, there are pilots in Australia and Singapore. I don’t want to be too ambitious but once people understand the value that link workers bring, the world is the limit. Social prescribing just makes sense and it’s the right thing to do and it should become the norm.
I’m very much grounded in my Christian faith, it’s important to me to make an impact. I’m not motivated by money, I lift people up because I believe in social justice, giving people the opportunity. The reason people give up is that they feel there is no reason to continue and are often not supported. We need to get people to connect to their purpose.
National Association of Link Workers is a social enterprise, and we strive to make a social impact. Link Workers activate people's talent, assets and their potential, and help them feel that they matter and can achieve great things in life. Some who have been helped by Link Workers have never worked and have felt hopeless about life. They have now gotten jobs, acquired new skills and even set up enterprises themselves contributing to society. What a positive transformation! I believe everyone matters and has something to offer.
I can to make a positive impact in this world
Being a black woman, I have had to fight for what I have achieved, but I have been able to develop strong resilience and tenacity in the process. It’s difficult for stress and doubt to get to me because I know my purpose, which allows me to take risks as I know where I’m going. I am very self-aware; any struggle is not a surprise to me as I handle things with confidence.
I believe giving back is good for your health, wellbeing and career development. Some people see it as therapy and a form of escapism. You'll get to a point in life where you feel like doing something that goes beyond getting paid. Some jobs can make you feel like you are not making an impact, especially if you work with lifeless objects. As a human, you should not be comfortable with not making an impact. You need to feel like you're making an impact to feel fulfilled. There are small things you can do and give back in your own way.
My advice to current students is to make use of all the support available to you and build a network. I can't say enough how important it is. Embrace your community because they can help you. All support you receive counts and helps to grow your career. Share your ideas and dreams, be ambitious and believe in yourself and don't stop dreaming; be imaginative and creative. If you hold yourself to a high standard, then anything is possible.
The Black Lives Matter movement has given me the confidence to call out things I see wrong and educate my friends and people close to me on racial matters. We need to make progress as a society, what causes negativity is not being integrated. Humans are made to love, I don’t want my kids to grow up tolerating hate, and I’ll do what I can to make a positive impact in this world.