The Heart of Bucks ‘Inspiring Buckinghamshire’ series gives local people from a range of sectors a chance to share their knowledge and insights to help inspire others.
Here we are speaking with Dr Nighat Arif, NHS GP.
Tell us about yourself and your connection to Buckinghamshire
I arrived in Chesham aged 9 from Pakistan, and I have lived in Buckinghamshire ever since. I am an NHS GP with a specialist interest in women’s health and work as a doctor in and around Buckinghamshire.
As well as a doctor in my surgery, I am the resident doctor on BBC Breakfast on BBC1, on BBC LookEast and This Morning on ITV. I am also the host of the Sunday Breakfast Show on BBC Three Counties Radio.
I am also a member of Team Halo which is a group of 70 doctors and scientists around the world who produce social media content tackling misinformation about the COVID19 vaccine, in partnership with the United Nations Verified Initiative and The Vaccine Confidence Project at the University of London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
What personal achievements are you most proud of?
I am incredibly proud of working as an NHS doctor who is serving her local community in the pandemic. I have been working at my community centre and administering the Covid vaccine.
On the 2nd of June, I had the pleasure of presenting our data from Team Halo at the G7 Summit Vaccine Confidence Project in London. Our work has been significant in tackling vaccine hesitancy in the young, and black, Asian, and minority ethnic community. The uptake in the vaccine improved by 85% meaning that with more people vaccinated we are able to ease out of lockdown and save lives in the pandemic.
I am also very proud of my work around women’s health. I started making short videos around common issues faced by women when it came to getting support for endometriosis, menopause, perimenopause etc for my South Asian community. I have had over 1.2m views of my evidence-based medical advice videos. I also was a contributor to the Channel 4 documentary “Davina McCall: Sex, Lies and the Menopause” which showcased the difficulty women have when accessing medical care when it comes to the menopausal phase of life. I produced the first poster in Urdu on the common symptoms of menopause for women to have better awareness and access to medical information especially for those whom English is not their first language.
My work around menopause awareness was highlighted in the August issue of British Vogue with journalist Kathleen Baird-Murray quoting what I see as barriers to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) that women face in the NHS.
Finally, I am so proud of my charitable work. I am the ambassador of the Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, The Good Grief Trust, HerSpirit, Sikh Forgiveness and Upon Noon.
What are some of the challenges you have faced, and how have you overcome them?
When I arrived in the UK I did not speak English. I learnt as much as I could from those around me. As a Pakistani Muslim girl, I never saw anyone who looked like me on TV at the time.
I grew up knowing that I wanted to be educated so that I could be free from the shackles of being someone’s daughter or someone’s wife. I wanted to have achievements in my own right. I have had to stay strong against misogyny and internalised misogyny from a society where the value of a woman’s work is not as prized as a man’s. I am blessed to have an incredibly supportive husband and parents who have never stopped me from discussing difficult subjects in a balanced way. My medical views and ideas are not appreciated by all, and social media has shown me that racism, islamophobia and misogyny are sadly still present in our society.
However, not being limited by narrow-minded views, showing the quality of your work and the value that you add to a community, progress is achievable. I have learnt that resilience and sticking to evidence-based medicine that transcends my gender, my faith and the colour of my skin will hopefully mean more lives are helped for the greater good.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
“Grab hold of the happy moments – because life is short”
I am so blessed to have so many incredible people in my life who have helped me and mentored me. I remain in touch with my teachers from The Misbourne School, Great Missenden and their lessons of hard work, being honest and trying your best have never left me.
What is your greatest hope for the future for Buckinghamshire?
Buckinghamshire is the most incredible place to live. I know I am biased, but I find as soon as I drive into Bucks I feel I can breathe the clean Chiltern air and I am home.
My greatest hope is that Buckinghamshire continues to thrive and be an enriched multicultural place that has peace, tolerance, and the best preventative healthcare for an environmentally conscious community.