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5 minutes with Heidi Lempp

Dr Heidi Lempp is a Reader in Medical Sociology in the School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences, and was recently appointed as the School Academic Lead, Development, Diversity & Inclusion (DDI). We took 5 minutes with Heidi to learn more about her career and life outside of work.


Briefly, tell us about your career up to this point. Is this something you always thought you would do? What drew you to sociology and muscular-skeletal health?

As a medical sociologist my research in musculoskeletal health and teaching in medical education have always focused on the social determinants of health and illness and how people from diverse social-cultural backgrounds manage to live with long-term conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Myositis and HIV. The findings from these studies have always shown discrepancies that needed to be taken in consideration in the implementation of health service research interventions. In addition, the involvement of the Expert Patient Group members that I set up over 10 years ago has highlighted to me that research and teaching with the direct participation of expert patients is more meaningful and relevant. This new post therefore fits in very well with my research interests.


Can you tell us more about your new appointment as School DD&I lead? Why did you apply? What do you hope to achieve and how? What do you think the major challenges and opportunities are?

I have been involved with DD&I work at King's since 2009 in various committees, within the Faculty, the School and the Rheumatology Department. I have conducted and contributed to several important research projects, e.g. widening participation and realise that much more needs to be achieved. This long-term commitment has provided me with great opportunities to network within King’s, nationally and internationally and I have met many inspiring people in the field of DD&I, who cannot stand still but want to improve how patients, staff and students of all backgrounds are valued and included in all our activities. Students are so passionate about diversity and inclusion issues and have great ideas about what can be changed for the better. The major challenges at the moment in my view are COVID-19 and Black Life Matters as these demand a change in all aspects of our lives - I hope for the better.


Do you have any current projects that you would like to tell us about? How do you think these could help people?

I have received a grant from King's to study the attainment gap of undergraduate students across three Faculties and seven Health Programmes with Dr Shuangyu Li. Together we have invited over 30 academic and clinical staff, students, patients and external collaborators who are all keen, passionate and committed to carry out the research in this sensitive area, with two excellent researchers. We are about to start the interviews and focus groups with teaching staff and students, and also carry out more granular quantitative data analysis from existing data sets. We have many challenging and rewarding discussions on the way! I expect that important changes will come from this work in collaboration with senior staff at King’s to promote DD&I.


How has your typical working day changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?

I am working from home and really enjoy my ‘new home office’. Every day I have an extra hour (time saved because of no commuting) that helps me to get through all my work and I also spend more time now outdoors to run, cycle or walk in the evenings - to get away from my computer and clear my mind.

I spend most of the day online in meetings with King's colleagues, teaching, providing tutorials, supervising MSc/PhD students, liaising with the Expert Patient Group, contacting mentees and speaking to colleagues from all over the world with current funded research projects where I learn how colleagues in China, India, Nepal, Nigeria, Tunisia, Germany, Switzerland, USA, and Netherlands cope with and adapt their working and personal lives to the COVID-19 pandemic era. At the beginning of each meeting we update each other about the specific country situation of each person and assess whether the research needs to be reconfigured to adapt to our new realities.



Who inspires you most and why?

The Group of our Departmental Expert Patients, because they challenge me, are always grateful, make a big difference to others, hardly complain and show such commitment and enthusiasm to our research and teaching.


Favourite book?

I have recently completed the life story by Eleanor Marx, the daughter of Karl Marx, by Rachel Holmes. She lived in her later years a few miles away from my neighbourhood (over 100 years ago!). A colleague on the recent picket line in Waterloo recommended the book to me. Eleanor has achieved a huge amount for other people against all the odds in her personal and political life as a woman.


When do you feel most motivated?

When work gets completed within a set time frame and all colleagues are on board, including when under- and post-graduate students I supervise reach their goals.


What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Never give up, always do your best and be prepared to stand up for others and yourself.


What’s the best thing that happened to you this month?

Meeting every week with my outdoor gym mates, come wind, snow, rain or shine!

In this story

Heidi  Lempp

Heidi Lempp

Professor of Medical Sociology in Rheumatology and Medical Education

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