WISE Covid Unsung Heroes: Community Champion Award Finalists

Winner: Ms Susan McDonald, NHS Test and Trace, now UKHSA Covid-19 Testing

Susan’s excellent nomination described her responding swiftly to the virus using her scientific, engineering and industry insights to help make Covid-19 testing an equitable and inclusive service that was accessible to everyone. She spearheaded ease of access and usability, driving service improvements in the UK Covid-19 home testing service. This work made the service more accessible to ethnic minority groups; blind and partially sighted people; as well as those shielding or self-isolating. Susan’s inclusive, thoughtful and passionate work included instructions translated into 12 languages. Susan also worked with the 119 medical service to enable ordering of home test kits by those without access to the internet. Her nomination came with many testimonials and endorsements from individuals, diverse groups and charities. 

Runner up: Vanessa Diaz Professor of Healthcare Engineering at University College London

Vanessa was shortlisted for her work around creating 3D printed visors using a network of home-based printers. This project demonstrated exceptional engineering practice through the whole supply chain of sourcing, logistics and manufacturing. The PPE created was approved locally for widespread use in UCLH and the Royal Free Hospital while they waited for a robust and reliable official PPE supply chain to be established. Vanessa also produced hundreds of visors that were delivered to medical teams across the country. Later in the pandemic, she widened the reach of her project and provided PPE to care homes. Vanessa is a clear role model for women and girls in STEM and an excellent advocate for WISE.  

Runner up: Ms Meritxell Miret Gonzalez, Anatomical Pathology Technologist at the Royal Free Hospital.

During the first surge of COVID deaths, Meritxell enabled the use of software called Attend Anywhere to facilitate ‘virtual viewings’ of the Royal Free Hospital mortuary that would allow bereaved relatives to view their deceased loved ones during times of strict travel and visitor restrictions. This was done in a compassionate, safe and secure way.  This service was so well received that the department has had several requests for assistance from other mortuaries to help set up an equivalent service.  Meritxell’s work made a genuine difference to many people during a difficult time.