Working Life: Neerja Jain

The health improvement project manager at Kidney Research UK on her work with BAME communities

Neerja Jain
Neerja Jain

I've been doing this job for 13 years and enjoyed every minute of it. I'm a kidney nurse by background, but now I'm a project manager focusing on heath inequality in kidney disease.

People from the black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are more at risk of getting kidney disease, but they're also less likely to receive transplants and less likely to donate organs, so it's a triple whammy. In general terms, you're more likely to get a better-matched organ if the donor is from the same ethnic group as you.

Some of the initiatives I run are research projects - for example, looking into attitudes to organ donation among BAME communities and the barriers that exist - and some of them are awareness-raising, project with which we try to reach out to the BAME public to inform them about the risk of kidney disease and ask them to consider becoming organ donors.

One of the best things about the job is the people I meet of all ages, ethnic and cultural backgrounds and from all walks of life: healthcare professionals in the NHS, academics in universities and the people who we're trying to help.

We've developed a peer educator model, using volunteers from the target communities to deliver the messages, and I get a great buzz out of developing them.

We had a lady in her 40s who'd been a housewife and a mother all her life. I coached her to do a speech with me in front of a medical audience of about 200 people. She was on cloud nine afterwards because she never thought she could achieve anything like that in her life.

Working with some of the groups can be challenging, particularly where there are concerns about whether organ donation is right within a particular religion.

That's definitely given me a few more grey hairs, but it's been worth it. Our job isn't complete, but I think we're making a difference. Neerja Jain is health improvement project manager for Kidney Research UK.

Kidney Research UK carries out research to find better treatments and cures for kidney disease

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