PhD student crowned at Royal College of Nursing awards

Tue 02 November, 2021
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A PhD student at the University of Bedfordshire was named winner of the Royal College of Nursing’s Leadership Award last week, following his work raising awareness of organ donation in the Sikh community.

Children’s nurse Rohit Sagoo, whose PhD has recently been funded by the Early Years Alliance, founded the community organisation British Sikh Nurses in 2016 and had been a finalist in the 2019 Royal College of Nursing Awards. This year, Rohit went one step further by being honoured at the 2021 virtual ceremony, hosted by broadcaster Kate Garraway and Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke.

The prestigious award recognises Rohit’s commitment to raising awareness of Sikh organ and stem cell donation, as well as championing mental health care, promoting healthy lifestyle choices and supporting the South Asian community during the Covid-19 pandemic. This dedication also saw Rohit receive the Points of Light Award – a recognition of outstanding individual volunteers – from Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2020.

A qualified nurse since the late 1990s, Rohit is now studying a PhD with the University’s Institute for Health Research (IHR) and is delighted to have been recognised for his efforts.

Speaking to BBC Radio London following his win, he said: “I’m so elated, and very surprised. There were so many great nominees and the event showcased some amazing innovation, practice and professionalism in nursing. When Kate Garraway called my name I just thought ‘oh my goodness, I’ve won!’

“It’s been a wonderful journey to raise awareness of stem cell and organ donation, as well as working to train bystander CPR within the South Asian community. These are really important areas to campaign in, and we’ve had to adapt to the use of social media to get these messages across during the pandemic.

“It’s been a lot of hard work but we as nurses do it as a passion and to care for our communities. Additionally, for Sikh nurses we do it because Sewa is one of the religion’s tenets – selfless service.”

While continuing his community work, Rohit will study for his PhD at the University of Bedfordshire, focussing on the efficiency of the Flying Start Programme in Luton – an initiative linked with the Early Years Alliance that provides care and education guidance to families and childcare professionals in the early years' sector.

Working with Rohit on this research is Dr Yannis Pappas, Head of the IHR PhD School & Director of the Research Centre for Health Service Organisation and Delivery, and Professor Gurch Randhawa, Director of IHR.

Dr Pappas commented: “Professor Randhawa and I are excited to work with the Early Years Alliance Luton to study and create the evidence base to inform future initiatives, as well as policy and early years practice, to help support local families and give their young ones a 'Flying Start'. We are delighted that an experienced nurse and a successful national leader for change, Rohit Sagoo, has decided to take a career break and join us as a doctorate student to conduct this important work.”

Rohit is yet another example of the high calibre of PhD students who have carried out research with the IHR. In recent months, Britzer Paul won the Young Investigator prize at the CAST Awards (Congress of the Asian Society of Transplantation), while Jokha Al Shukaili was appointed CEO of the Oman Authority for Academic Accreditation and Quality Assurance of Education.

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