This is a photo of Sayma Mirza, an alumnus of the Fellowship programme. Celebrating the Fellowship

Hi, my name is Sayma. 

I am a proud West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership (HCP) fellow alumni.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said ‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams’.

I have had amazing leaders throughout my career that have helped me to believe in my own dreams and ambitions. So, let me share where I have been but more importantly where I am going because of some fantastic opportunities that the West Yorkshire partnership has provided me. 

What is the fellowship?

Our Partnerships has been working on the strategic ambition to increase the diversity of leadership across West Yorkshire. An independent inquiry during the COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted key challenges that people from Black, Asian, and ethnic minority backgrounds face when trying to progress their careers.

One way the partnership has been addressing this inequality, has been through the introduction of a co-designed fellowship programme. One that specifically focuses on providing opportunities for fellows from diverse backgrounds to undertake stretch placements that help them to gain experience in different roles.  Alongside the stretch opportunities, the fellowship programme has also provided fellows with a shadow board experience, taught system leadership theory, hot spot interviews with CEO’s and executive directors and access to a personal mentor and career coach. 

Why did you apply? 

A strong work ethic and passion to better myself has been instilled in me from a very young age. I am a Muslim woman of South Asian descent. Intersectionality factors have always impacted my journey at every step of the way however they have also provided me with the steely determination needed to succeed in influencing for a better future for all, across health and care systems. 

When the fellowship was launched, I felt it would be a great opportunity for further stretch at scale across a large health and care system serving 2.4 million people. I hoped it would help me to continue my leadership journey, and to further enhance my skills at being able to influence on behalf of others as we strive to create equity in outcomes, opportunities, and experiences for all. The programme did that and so much more. 

What did you learn/experience? 

I spent a year working as the Partnership’s Assistant Director for System Leadership and Development. A senior role spanning the whole health and care system across West Yorkshire. My placement also incorporated a system development role in Wakefield’s place-based partnership. 

My placement year involved working with seniority across all partnership organisations co- designing system development strategies and delivery of these across various layers of our complex adaptive system. It has also involved strengthening partnership relationships across West Yorkshire as we transition into a statutory integrated care system (subject to parliamentary approval) and establishing new ways of working as we tackle widening health inequalities post pandemic and improve population health.  

I also helped strengthen the West Yorkshire race equality network of networks and the West Yorkshire organisational development community. In October 2021, I helped design and lead on a 'Connected on Inclusion' week that brought together almost 1300 people from the country to discuss a shared purpose of inclusion. And finally, on my last count I realised I had helped design and deliver 42 system development sessions to health and care professionals across our system! To put it mildly, let's just say it was a busy year! 

Where are you now?

After graduating from the Fellowship programme I was recently successful in securing a promotion to a permanent role as the Associate Director for the Children and Young People and Families Programme for the Partnership. As a children’s nurse, I am truly humbled at the opportunity to influence on a larger scale for a better future for our young people and future generations. I am feeling immensely proud of the leadership journey I have been on which wouldn’t have happened had I not been encouraged to believe in the beauty of my dreams. 

The fellowship has helped me evolve. I am not the same leader I was as I went into the programme. I am more certain of my skills,  ability and the impact my leadership style has on others. More importantly though I have increased awareness of my development needs and insight into how it feels to be ‘on the receiving end of me as a leader’. I have grown.

Would you recommend this to others? 

Would I have had the opportunity to gain this valuable senior experience across a large health and care system and secure a pivotal senior role across our partnership without the fellowship programme? The answer is unequivocally no! 

So, I will leave you with the following Indian proverb ‘You give me room to stand, I will create my own room to sit’. 

The fellowship opened the door and I well and truly have stepped through it…….will you do the same? 

Have a good weekend,