All my professional life I have worked in the field of science and research. I gained a PhD in Biochemistry and Immunology from Queen’s University Belfast. I had a post-doctoral research career in academia but moved into the medical devices industry where I was a development scientist, then a project, regulatory and clinical trials manager. I was part of team which brought a number of medical device products for use by patients to market in Europe, Canada, the United States and Japan.
I joined the HSC in 2003 and have worked in the field of research ethics for BSO and for the National Research Ethics Service in England. As Head of the Office for Research Ethics Committees Northern Ireland (ORECNI) BSO, I lead a service of staff and volunteer committee members who provide ethics review of all research which involves patients and service users within the HSC and the wider NHS. I currently chair the Disability Staff Network, Tapestry.
I have suffered from depression especially post-partum depression. Also as a teenager I had anorexia nervosa but have been one of the lucky few who have made a complete recovery. Anorexia had a devastating effect on me and my immediate family growing up but being part of a close loving family was pivotal in my recovery.
With depression there have been times when I have struggled. I am not unique and it is important to show human frailty sometimes. I have two grown up children and have a very exciting career and believe I have shown my children that disability does not always hold you back; it is part of life and does not define you.
Depression is nothing to be ashamed of. It is important to be open about disability; my team knows about it and I am not treated differently because of it. I believe having a disability gives me the empathy and personal context which makes me a better manager and leader of a research ethics service.
My employer has been very supportive. I have openly declared my disability (through HRPTS) and am able to avail of counselling should I wish through my employer which is a valuable asset. I have had very limited time off work due to disability.
Some people are concerned that having a disability is off putting for employers, but my experience is that good employers and leaders value their people. We need to understand that in Northern Ireland at any one time 1 in 4 of us could have a mental health condition at some point of their life. If we exclude or isolate people with disability we are throwing away so much talent.
People should be confident in themselves and we should celebrate and value our differences.
Dr Siobhan McGrath
Head of the Office of Research Ethics Committees Northern Ireland (ORECNI)
Business Services Organisation