Cherelle Augustine is a CLAHRC NWL Improvement Leader Fellow, cohort 2015. Cherelle is a Patient Ambassador for sickle cell disease. In 2005 Cherelle, at the age of 19, co-founded a charitable organisation called Broken Silence in loving memory of a friend who passed away due to complications of sickle cell. Broken Silence was founded by young people, champions young people and targets awareness towards young people.
March 13th 2017 was the first time the Master of Public Health (MPH) course at Imperial College had a patient teach their students on the ‘Improving Health Services’ module. It was a privilege to be invited by Rachel Matthews, Patient and Public Engagement and Involvement Theme Lead at NIHR CLAHRC NWL, to co-facilitate her session at Imperial. Being part of a milestone of an institution of such a magnitude can be daunting and although I have yet to complete a masters course myself, I knew I had a lot to offer these students.
Service users such as myself can spend half their life or more in and out of hospitals or primary care services. I was diagnosed with sickle cell disease, the UKs most common genetic condition, at six weeks old. I have grown up with immense pain, had a near death experience at seven and lived with the after effects of childhood strokes, of which I currently have had six, and as a teen have watched a friend pass away from complications of the same illness. Going through this and more, I became self-aware and was raised to self-manage my condition. Even as a child, I have always been at the centre of making big decisions. My self-awareness has countless times saved my life.
Unfortunately, this independence and understanding of my needs has not always been well received by healthcare professionals. I shared this truth with the students. I was able to share not only my stories and values as a patient, but skills I had learnt through running a charitable organisation, being involved with an All Party Parliamentary Group, MPs, Lords, NHS England, the Improvement Leader Fellowship, co-producing and being on both sides of research.
It was an honour to be able to speak to the MPH students and I am hopeful that I was able to change the mindset and self-awareness of at least one individual going into healthcare. I hope I inspired the students to think about patients as not just somebody to fix, but as an individual with the understanding and skills to work together with to impact positive change in their care and the health service. Change starts with the individual and an individual can change the world.