Unlock your whole selfPhoto of Awais Habib, an alumni of the Fellowship Programme.

Hello, my name is Awais

I am a senior healthcare leader, with a passion for developing equitable services for all people. I am also Muslim, and a British Pakistani. My passion for improving health and care services stems from personal lived experiences growing up in Bradford. I witnessed first-hand the health and social care challenges faced by my parents, who were first generation migrants from Pakistan. These challenges were exacerbated by economic factors too. My aspiration to become an executive director was born from this lived experience and it instilled a desire in me to influence on behalf of others for a better future for all. Over the years, there have been many occasions where my aspirations and passion have dwindled due to lack of development and opportunity. More recently, however, they have been amplified and energised by the HSJ award winning senior fellowship programme. 

How? Let me explain.

My upbringing, values, resilience, determination, and commitment have shaped my academic and professional success over the years. Yet, despite having a proven track record with over a decade of senior operational experience across two industries, I still found myself facing barriers when trying to advance my career and realise my ambitions of eventually becoming an executive leader in healthcare. These barriers have included limited opportunity for development and poorer experiences. The additional complexity of intersectionality factors has further impacted my development and opportunity to gain senior experience. At times this has meant, I could not bring my whole self to work and progress into senior roles.

Then came the watershed moment, the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership (WY HCP) launched the Fellowship programme . Specifically designed to provide experience in system roles and entwined with fantastic modules such as political acumen, inclusive system leadership, career development and a shadow board experience. The programme was exactly what I needed to unlock my whole self as a leader. I could explore my authenticity, and use my skills and experience gained through lived and professional experiences, to bring my ambition into sight.

I applied, secured a place and fifteen months later, I am grateful to say that I am now a proud, inspired and determined alumnus having completed the programme. 

What did I learn and experience?

The programme provided an environment in which I could be challenged, grow, and develop right from the outset. I felt empowered and confident to use my lived experience, values and perspectives in key placements and I aim to continue to do this in any future roles. I had the opportunity to meet numerous people and broaden my network across the West Yorkshire HCP. An important and strong network that grew from the programme was one among the fellows too. With talented people from across the system, we soon became a safe circle where we could support, challenge, coach and simply listen to one another.

I had very limited experience of a board setting at the start of the programme. The programme connected me with the Inspiring Leaders Network Shadow Board who provided fellows with both modular and experiential learning. Through this learning, I was able to shadow the Partnership Senior Leadership Executive Group. This experience was invaluable and has helped me secure board room skills, as I continue to aspire to becoming an executive director. Beyond this, to help with my personal development I was also assigned a senior coach and mentor from the wider system. 

During one of my placements, I stepped into the role of strategic engagement lead for diabetes working across the Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership known as Act as One.  I had the opportunity to develop a focused strategic engagement model with the Bangladeshi community in Keighley, West Yorkshire to ensure that the experience of people living with diabetes informed service redesign. The outcome of this work was remarkable, as we empowered people to develop a community led action plan working in affiliation with Diabetes UK and involving senior stakeholders from the health and care system. This was my opportunity to bring to surface some of the challenges faced by South Asian communities, tackle health inequalities and co-produce actions to make improvements. 

During my second placement as the Acting Head of Care Coordination, I was responsible for shaping, leading, and establishing the Care Coordination Programme (CCP) as part of the Act as One Health and Care Partnership.  This work was essential to support the partnerships ambition to help people live ‘Happy, Healthy at Home’ and address some of the impacts and challenges realised following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The aim of CCP was to bring together partners across health, care and support services including adult social care, mental health, and the voluntary community social enterprise sector. The programme provided a coordinated approach and made service navigation seamless for patients and staff. I led the development of a multidisciplinary method, promoting a pro-active and patient-centred focus. This was underpinned by collaboration principles, to ensure we have the right professional for the right person at the right time. I designed and established the programme governance and reported directly into the Community Partnership and Airedale Health and Care Partnership Board.

Beyond this, I had the opportunity to be involved with a task and finish group to develop and shape the Bradford Inequalities Alliance and act as the place-based lead for personalised care at West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership led meetings.

Throughout the fellowship placements, I have led discussions across the health and care system involving stakeholders from primary care networks, acute providers, community trusts and voluntary, community and social enterprises organisations. The breadth of experience has been invaluable and improved my knowledge and understanding of transformation initiatives in the health and care system. It has also increased my awareness of health inequalities and the positive impact partnership working can have on reducing these and improving population health.

What next?

Having come to the end of the programme, I am delighted to say that I have now secured a permanent post as the Divisional Operations Director at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust. My journey to this point has been challenging, yet it has also been fulfilling. It has provided me with the opportunity for growth and that has shaped the leader I am today. Fundamentally, I strongly believe that determination and perseverance is vital, and you need to keep moving forward as “Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.” 

The fellowship programme has been a vital in providing the stepping-stone for me to move closer to my ambition of becoming an executive director. The learning has been exceptional, and I can guarantee you will not feel the same after the programme. Let the programme help you Unlock Your Whole Self. As the famous Persian poet Rumi writes “There is a morning inside you waiting to burst open into light”.

Thank you for reading,

Awais Habib.