Interning with the ICON group at LSHTM

We spoke with our 2023 intern, Princess Obayori, to find out more about her experience of interning with the ICON group, and how LSHTM’s partnership with HDR UK began.

This summer, Princess Obayori embarked on an internship with the Inequalities in Cancer Outcomes Network (ICON) as part of the HDR UK Black Internship Programme. Under the guidance of Wende Safari and Aimilia Exarchakou, Princess spent eight weeks contributing to the team’s mission of using statistics to highlight the interactions between patients’ sociodemographic background and cancer outcomes.

Having pursued her undergraduate studies in biotechnology at the University of Nottingham, Princess has an interest in addressing health disparities among different ethnic groups. Entering the realm of biostatistics was a novel experience for her. Aimilia reflected, “It was a pleasure working with a young scientist with a background different from that of Epidemiology. It was a pleasure to gain exposure to new ways of thinking.”

Princess used the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Services (NCRAS) database to investigate inequalities in cancer incidence between ethnic minority groups in England. She said, “My work was done mostly using the coding language R and was a great opportunity to upskill as I had used the software only briefly at university.”

“I realised the extent of the impact that sociodemographic factors have on a patient’s journey through the healthcare system, and the importance of the research”

Princess Obayori

ICON are passionate about their work because their research outputs offer vital information to stakeholders, enabling the implementation of policies aimed at curbing disparities in cancer care and, ultimately, saving lives. “While undertaking my project, I realised the extent of the impact that sociodemographic factors have on a patient’s journey through the healthcare system, and the importance of the research,” said Princess.

Princess and ICON team members Manuela Quaresma, Sanobar Vohra, Wende Safari and Quentin Rollet (L-R) after her final presentation.

Wende and Aimilia are research fellows at ICON who helped to plan and supervise the internship. They shared their experiences. “This was our first time supervising an intern. Being teachers and mentors requires a completely different set of skills than being researchers. We let Princess lead the project and contribute her own ideas and skills, with us there to support her along the way.”

“We decided to plan the work ahead by dividing the project into smaller chunks. We would meet with Princess often where we would set the aims for the week ahead and review progress at the end of the week.”

Despite a tight schedule filled with all the other sessions that come with the internship, we were able to work together efficiently with Princess, and she successfully completed all planned analyses and presented the results at the end of her internship,” said Wende.

Princess presenting her work at the HDR UK London office at the Wellcome Trust

After the internship had concluded, Princess shared what she has in store for the future. “I plan to establish myself within the pharmaceutical sector and eventually pursue a master’s in Epidemiology or an allied field.

“The internship at LSHTM was an amazing introduction to all the possibilities within the realm of health data research, so I hope to further explore opportunities to develop myself as a researcher.”

When asked what she’d say to anyone considering taking part next year, Princess commented, “It was an amazing experience and opportunity. The program is extremely well-structured and allows for great exposure to what life as a researcher looks like and the importance of data in healthcare. Don’t be too concerned about your levels of experience. If you go into the program with an open mind, you will learn a lot!”

LSHTM’s partnership with HDR UK

LSHTM has participated in the HDR UK internship each year since 2021, providing internships with groups across LSHTM. Interns have the opportunity to undertake a project in an area that matches their interests, including ‘omics data, public health and policy, large-scale routine data and many other topics.

LSHTM’s involvement in the scheme started as an initiative from the Electronic Health Records group, spearheaded by Professors Sinéad Langan and Elizabeth Williamson, and supported by the LSHTM Strategic Research Office. Since its inception, the internship at LSHTM has received great support from academic and professional services staff from across LSHTM. Patrick Bidulka and Rutendo Muzambi, research fellows in the Electronic Health Records group at LSHTM, took over the co-leadership roles of the internship at LSHTM in 2023.

Princess, Rutendo Muzambi and Patrick Bidulka at the HDR UK Black Internship Programme Closing Ceremonies at the Wellcome Trust

The programme at LSHTM is set to continue, expanding to include more interns and to offer a wider range of projects, networking and development opportunities.

Patrick noted, “I think it’s a great initiative. Doing something for EDI as part of my employment at LSHTM is important to me. The internship is a concrete and actionable programme to help us as a School deliver on our EDI goals.”

Highlighting the key criterion for selecting interns, Rutendo said, “Enthusiasm and willingness to learn are key factors in a successful interview. With a diverse range of sessions offered on the internship, we’re looking for individuals who will actively engage with and maximize the opportunities on offer.”

If you’re interested in applying for an internship place for summer 2024, check the HDR UK website or contact Patrick (Patrick Bidulka and Rutendo (Rutendo Muzambi directly via email.