Meet our featured member for June... Rafiah Badat

Odoo • Image and Text

This month we had a chat with new Member Rafiah Badat. Rafiah is a NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellow at St George’s University Hospitals Foundation Trust, London, and a Speech and Language Therapist. Rafiah was kind enough to take the time out to speak to us about her current role and interests, involvement in the Shuri Network, and the importance of informatics in Speech and Language Therapy.

Hi Rafiah! Please could you introduce yourself and explain what your current role is?

I am a Speech and Language Therapist and have been practicing for nearly 15 years now.   My clinical work involves supporting children with communication difficulties linked to neurodevelopmental disorders.  I do this by targeting attention, play, speech, language, social skills and behaviour through expert assessment, diagnosis, therapy, professional/parent training and multiagency working. The latter includes collaborating with partners in health such as paediatricians, education such as teachers and social care such as psychologists.

I have always been interested in the role of technology in therapy and the potential for it to reduce the impact of underlying impairments whilst promoting self-management.  In June 2019, I was awarded a 4-year fellowship by the National Institute of Health Research to investigate this area further as part of a clinical PhD.  For me this is the best of both worlds as I am able to continue my clinical specialism in digital therapy whilst researching the benefits of the approach.

As Member of the Faculty who joined in our most recent cohort, could you let us know how you found out about the Faculty and what led you to join?

As my activities in digital therapy have progressed, I have become acutely aware that I am one of a small handful of BAME clinicians working in digital health.  This motivated me to join The Shuri Network which as the first NHS network of BAME women in digital health aims to facilitate and promote diversity. 

As a Shuri Network member, I was given the opportunity to attend a Building a Digital Ready Workforce scoping session.   Whilst there, I was fortunate enough to hear FCI Chair John Williams speak about the Faculty and its goal to support, mobilise and act as advocates for clinicians working in health tech.  I continued the conversation with John following the session and he encouraged me to apply for membership particularly given the natural synergy between the FCI, Shuri Network and my professional role.

How did your career in clinical informatics start and what are your main areas of interest?

My career as a clinician working in the field of informatics formally began in June 2019 when I began my clinical PhD in the area.  As a practicing clinician my focus and interests lie in investigating the potential for technology to enhance existing clinical intervention methods. 

I am particularly interested in the role of co-design as I firmly believe that to create therapy tools that truly meet the needs of a clinical population that very population needs to be involved throughout the design and development process.  In order to explore this further, I have formed partnerships with The Centre for Human Computer Interaction Design at City, University of London and the Centre for Public Engagement at Kingston and St George’s Universities.

I am also keen to highlight the vital intersection between AI and inclusion that is needed to benefit those with additional needs which ultimately will promote digital accessibility for all.  In order to develop my expertise in this area further, I will be undertaking a year-long fellowship at The Alan Turing Institution – the national site for data science and artificial intelligence research.

How do you see informatics benefitting Speech and Language Therapy, and in what ways can the Faculty encourage Speech and Language Therapists to get involved in informatics?

Communication much like technology is an area that can complement and enhance all aspects of a person’s life.  As specialists in supporting individuals who are experiencing a communication breakdown, Speech and Language Therapists play a unique and vital role in improving a person’s day to day experience.  By utilising technology, Speech and Language Therapists are able to provide service-users with greater choice, flexibility and efficiency in how and when they access therapy. 
 
The Faculty can encourage Speech and Language Therapists to get more involved in informatics by drawing attention to the many ways in which Therapists already utilise technology in their working practice.  The role of a clinical informatician is often seen as one that is niche and difficult to get into when in fact many clinicians present with incredible tech skills that they utilise in their work without defining themselves as experts in the field of digital health.

Finally, what advice would you give to yourself when you were first starting out in informatics?

To embrace the dynamic, novel, multi-professional and multi-faceted nature of the clinical informatician’s role as whilst it is a huge move from my day to day clinical role the opportunity to be creative, innovative and promote patient choice is unparalleled.