BREATHE - Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health


My health data internship experience by Maria Johnson

Maria Johnson has spent the last six weeks working with the BREATHE team at Imperial College London, as part of the 10000 Black Interns programme with Health Data Research UK.

Headshot of Maria Johnson

Firstly, I think it is incredible that Health Data Research UK recognises the lack of black people within health data science and has given us, interns, the opportunity to explore this sector. Why is it important to have diversity within health data science? Increasing diversity increases the ability to fight against systemic racism and discrimination. This is an ongoing battle, and it is so important that everyone plays their part in challenging it.

During these last six weeks I have had many experiences such as listening to various talks, working on my own projects, and meeting some amazing, knowledgeable people.

At the beginning of the internship we were put in groups and given the project of finding a dataset to analyse, produce both a report and a presentation on our findings. The easiest part of the project was finding the dataset, we used an open source and was immediately drawn to it. We used a 2014 dataset on mental health in the workplace. Different variables in the data included remote working, gender, geographical location and seeking treatment. All data was anonymised and therefore safe to use. We picked this data as we are passionate advocates of the importance of mental health and knew this was an area we were interested in exploring. After some initial background research we decided to base our research on the question: Are men less likely to seek mental health help in the workplace? Our analysis proved our hypothesis and highlights how more needs to be done to provided mental health support in working environments.

As this whole experience has been virtual, I have improved upon my time management and scheduling abilities. I think my teamwork skills have also been developed. In terms of using the data, I have also developed my skills in using R studio to conduct analysis. I have learnt about just how much cleaning must be done on the dataset before any analysis even occurs.

Another memorable experience was giving a presentation on summarising a paper to my host organisation. Having an audience who are experts in their fields was very nerve racking and very different to giving a presentation to my university peers. However, I am very grateful to have had that experience and will take on what I learnt in future presentations.

I have enjoyed this internship immensely as I have learnt a lot and met some wonderful people.


Video: Maria Johnson BREATHE internship
Maria Johnson describes her highlights from a six week internship with BREATHE, as part of the Health Data Research UK 10000 Black Interns Programme.

HDR UK Black Internship Programme

More about the Black Internship Programme from Health Data Research UK