March 8th is International Women’s Day. The campaign asks us all to imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

At NCIC we want all staff to feel included valued and free from discrimination

For international women’s day at the Trust we are celebrating some of our inspirational women.

There is Natalie who literally travelled from the other side of the world and provedInternational Womens Day collage.jpg those who said she wouldn’t get a job in the NHS wrong; Nicole from South Africa who is featuring in an exhibition to demonstrates Carlisle United football club’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Amal a consultant paediatrician originally from Sudan whose determination to study medicine is a true inspiration. Yvonne who started in the NHS in 1987 as a shorthand typist (on an actual typewriter) and has worked her way up to the head of information governance and is still learning and Lauren a trained barrister who had a very steep learning curve 8 weeks into joining the NHS.


Amal Kona.jpgI'm Amal Kona, a consultant paediatrician. I'm based in Whitehaven and conduct clinics in Barrow-in -Furness.

Tell us a bit about your background

I'm originally from Sudan. However, I lived most of my life in Saudi Arabia.I always wanted to be a doctor. It was impossible to get to medical school in Saudi Arabia. I insisted on going abroad to study medicine. Luckily, my father was supportive and agreed to send me to Slovakia to study medicine despite the resistance of all our extended family and uncles. I can say with pride I was the first female in my tribe who travelled alone abroad to study medicine.

It was quite a challenge finding my way in Slovakia. 

Most people at that time didn't speak English. I had to learn the Slovak language quickly to find my way. I used to take a coffee cup and chat with the old lady in the reception, using all possible non-verbal communication skills to express myself. During the day, I would play with children trying to catch some new words. I was pleased that I learned enough language to communicate with others within a month.

A few months after I came to Slovakia, I attended a graduation ceremony. I have noticed some graduates carried a red diploma while most were blue. I asked why I was told you would get the red one if you graduated with an honour degree. At that time, I decided that I would only accept the red diploma. I felt that was the only way to tell my parents that they made the right choice by accepting to send me alone away.

Who has been your role model, and why? 

My role models kept changing as growing.

The one who made me want to be a good paediatrician was Professor Mohamedahmed Abdullah. He was a family friend and a neighbour; I attended his clinics. I witnessed how he was kind and friendly with his patients and their family and how they loved him. I noticed he was paying travel costs for his patients to attend their appointment and even arrange their accommodation if they were coming from outside the city. I was also impressed how he can have time to keep his knowledge updated, be social, be a good father, do a lot of charity work, and be a happy person. I learned from him a vital lesson; smiling was his secret weapon.

If you could give your younger self advice, what would it be? 

The only way to do great work is to love what you do. Work will fill a considerable part of your life; the only way to be satisfied is to do great work.

What's the best thing about your job / role? 

Being able to help others makes me feel rewarded, fulfilled and empowered and have a positive impact on my patients, making me more optimistic

Do you have a motto? 

The glass is half full.

Natalie Carman.jpgTell me a little bit about your career path and how you overcame difficulties:

I graduated in New Zealand and came to the UK in 1999. I was initially told by some I would never be good enough to be a NHS dentist due to my overseas qualification but I used those comments to fuel my determination and took my first job as a salaried dentist in West Cumbria some distance from my home as I knew the NHS Trust would support me with the training required to ‘make the grade’. Learning to interpret the local dialect was interesting at first but now I have it down in my NZ accent!

Who has been your role model and why?

Three formidable women:

Dame Sister Pauline Engel CBE- my headmistress at high school. She took no messing but was compassionate and inspirational to those of us who were taught by her. In her time as principal, she had a sticker above her door which said "Girls can do anything".

Eithne MacFadyen from Glasgow who taught me at dental school in New Zealand. She was passionate about care for patients with special needs and heavily influenced my choice of workplace.

Dame Margaret Seward DBE, CBE- a former Chief Dental Officer in England, former editor of the British Dental Journal and BDA President who really fought for the rights of women returning to the workplace after having children.

If you could give your younger self advice what would it be?

Try not to worry so much about what others think and on a less serious note accept your curly hair and DO NOT ATTEMPT A PERM no matter what the hairdresser says.

What is the best thing about your job / role?

Working alongside a multi-disciplinary group of staff who are as keen as I am to make a positive difference to our patients.

Do you  have a motto?

Not really. I have an aspiration to use colourful adjectives less.

Katarina Berankova.jpgI am Katarina Berankova, Consultant Paediatrician, Children’s Ward CIC and I come from Slovakia

Tell us a little bit about your career path and how you overcame any difficulties.

Medicine was one of the many fields I considered as a career option when I was a student. After going to medical school I still thought I would be working in research rather than clinical medicine. I’m glad that I decided for the latter one as I do like working with patients and their families. Medical career can be challenging especially if one wants to have some “out of work life” as well. I’ve been lucky with having great support from my family and some good friends who are always there for me. Overcoming difficulties is always easier with the bunch of right people around you.

Who has been your role model and why?

I wouldn’t say a role model but certainly a great inspiration

Betty MacDonald, an American writer from 20th century. Despite her life being full of obstacles she managed to “take it easy” and her books are full of kind humour and humanity – so important in any difficult times in which she was living.

If you could give your younger self advice what would it be?

Trust your instincts and don’t overthink things.

What’s the best thing about your job / role?

Everyday variety and potential for further development and growth. There’s hardly any day that I wouldn’t learn something new. Also, I never get bored in my job.

Do you have a motto?

Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.

Yvonne Salkeld cropped.jpgTell me a little bit about your career path and how you overcame difficulties:

I have been very lucky in my career and worked with some fabulous bosses who have supported me and helped me show that you can do different things so I was never frightened of taking a chance as I knew I had their backing and the confidence in me.  

I have done a mixture of corporate roles from PAs, Trust Board Secretary / Company Secretary roles, Complaints Manager including managing serious untoward incident processes, and PALs teams, managing Records depts, Data Quality, Clinical Coding, and IG where I have stayed quite a while now.

The biggest difficulties to overcome was when the two Trust merged and different, cultures, systems and standards needed to come together. We all needed to work together to reinforce boundaries, standardise ways of working, bring in efficient ways of managing and performance management techniques as a positive approach to ensuring everyone played their part. I am so proud of how we have come through this as a team and we have such a well-oiled machine now.

My career on a page:

2019 - 2022

Having completed a certificate and diploma in Information Rights Law and Practice I am now doing the finishing touches to my masters (I must be mad as having done an early masters vowed would never do another and here I am again…).


Law changed and data protection officers were a legal requirement of public bodies so took this role on as well as responsibilities for health records, data quality, clinical coding to name a few over the years.  


Through management of change process was appointed as Head of IG for CPFT


Came back to the Trust as part of the Community Transition of Services back to CPFT as wanted to be more operational rather than commissioning.


Took a side way move to be IG Manager for the PCT and completed qualifications in various IG aspects.


I went to the Primary Care Trust that later changed to be CCG in a similar role.  I knew early on that commissioning was not for me as needed to be nearer the patients so went back to uni and completed a Degree and Masters in business administration over a two – three year period.

1998 and 2001

Maternity leaves for two kids

1998 onwards

The below role just kept on growing and in Nov 2005 I completed a degree in Manging Complaints for Service Improvement with Middlesex University as we were failing to respond to complaints in time and the Patient Advice and Liaison Service started around then as well so I was asked to take the leadership role on and turn it around.


NHS Trusts came into operation and the Community Services merged with MH Services.  My boss got the Chief Exec role so I continued in the role and developed to become Board Secretary and supporting Chair and Board members.

May 1987

Started by NHS Career in the Supplies Dept (shorthand typist) and then took a role as PA to the Director of Nursing. Then when the Community Unit General Manager’s PA went on maternity leave and subsequently left I was asked to cover her role (same role as a Chief Executive now).   

These PA skills were obtained from going to an old fashioned secretarial college were learned shorthand, book keeping etc that has never left me – I would say the biggest skills I have is the ability to touch type and my speed at doing it.   Pitman shorthand I can still do but not at the same speed and is a mixture of long hand and short hand now.




Who has been your role model and why ?

I have been lucky but there are three people that come to mind are:

  • Nigel Woodhouse: one of the first Chief Execs I worked with – he was amazing and he kept pushing me by saying things “don’t tell my Execs but your better than some of them you need to brush up on your qualifications and you will go far – he gave me opportunities in complaints etc to get experience in different areas– I stayed with him for years as we had a great relationship.  
  • Phil Robertson Director of Nursing for CPFT – again – Phil was so encouraging, respectful and kept pushing me to improve
  • Michael Smillie well what I can I say – a gentleman.

These individuals had qualities that I respected and aligned to my principles which meant I stayed with them – they were all professional, respected all staff irrespective of grade, were fair and therefore work wasn’t a chore as they made you feel that you were making a difference and therefore you worked continually hard and go above and beyond.   

If you could give your younger self advice what would it be?

Stay true to yourself and your principles.  Treat people how you would like to be treated.   This sometimes links to difficulties above that when we merged with the Acute Trust I came across some negative behaviours and I couldn’t stand back and let these continue. One of the biggest lessons I learned was in the PCT when I dealt with a staffing issue and at the time I felt on my own when handling it and I did question whether I was doing the right thing – it was only when it was all sorted a few people came over to me and said “well done – that I was the first who recognised it was inappropriate and tackled it and in the end it led to a better team that worked collaboratively”.   

I always vowed that when a manager I would try to reward good practice with positive reinforcement and tackle poor.   I also had it drilled into me that the patients are what we are here for and you work as if what you do is contributing to caring for your own relatives.   I can remember we didn’t even have shorthand pads and had to make these from the back of used paper and seal with a glue gun plus there was no computers when I started it was a typewriter (was an automatic one) although I did learn on an old manual one where you had to swipe the return bar. Goodness I sound old!

What is the best thing about your job or role?

My team – they work really hard and I am proud of them both individually and as a team

Do you have a motto?

My grandad always used to say “a good planner is worth another man” – I plan everything in advance (much sometimes to my husband’s dismay). Also “don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today”.  Again of a similar link to be organised and plan which is me to a tee being that “blue – organised person that I am” although with a bit of red (which is my favourite colour).

Nicole Cottingham.jpgTell me a little bit about your career path and how you overcame any difficulties

I’ve always been passionate about people, hearing their stories and helping to improve their circumstances where I can. This has meant that I’ve had opportunities to be involved in lots of different kinds of work – in different sectors and even in different countries. Most of my work has centred around working with asylum seekers, refugees and migrants within the third sector, which has been challenging but absolutely fascinating. The most challenging aspect of that kind of work is knowing how to best help people to integrate within communities which are sometimes hostile towards them or systems which aren’t fit for purpose.

In the work that I’ve done, the way I have overcome difficulties is by focusing on why I’m doing what I’m doing and staying open to learning. I think if you stay accountable to yourself, the people you work with and the people who you are supporting then you will either find a solution or let go of what you can’t change. Humour also goes a long way.

Recently, I’ve taken up a full time position within the Patient Experience Team here at NCIC. It’s a completely different environment to what I have been used to in the past. Within the third sector, you’re often working as part of a very small team and you represent whole departments across just a few of you. It has been a real learning curve working in the public sector over the past year as everything needs to be signed off and approved by someone higher up. At times it feels less efficient but is a comfort at the same time, because someone else is checking your ‘working out’.

Who has been your role model and why?

I’ve been in an incredibly fortunate position that I’ve had some really good mentors around me – people who have encouraged me in my professional development without patronising me because of my age. I know it’s International Women’s Day, but someone who has been a real role model for me is Niall McNulty – he’s a bit of a local celebrity in Carlisle. He’s incredibly passionate about people in the community and always has time to listen to people regardless of where he is or what he’s doing. He’s also extremely good at investing in people and empowering them to stand up for what they believe in and grab opportunities that come their way.

If you could give your younger self advice what would it be?

Well at the ripe age of 28, I’m still no expert in myself or what life is all about. I would maybe say, “Don’t take yourself so seriously. Everything will come in its own time.”

What’s the best thing about your job / role?

The best thing about my job is absolutely being able to make a difference to the lives of patients – either directly or indirectly. We have volunteers who are on the wards who help patients to connect with their relatives via video or phone calls. The times where I’ve had the opportunity myself to help patients connect with their families, it has been incredibly heart-warming. I also enjoy doing ward visits as I get to speak to patients and get their feedback about our services. We exist to improve patient experience, so it’s always a good reminder of why we’re doing what we’re doing when we get to help patients. 

Do you have a motto?

No I don’t, but I wish I had one now. I guess I would say, keeping working away to make change in your corner of the world – wherever and whatever that may be. Also, hydration is key.

Lauren Storrow.PNGTell me a little bit about your career path and how you overcame any difficulties.

I qualified as a barrister in 2014 and was looking for relevant work.  A school acquaintance who worked for an agency contacted me to let me know Cumbria Partnership were looking for someone to fill an agency legal admin role.  I applied and was in the role for 8 weeks or so before the entire department left.  I had to run the department as a fresh 22 year old graduate for a number of months!  It was a steep but valuable learning curve.  I then worked my way through substantive management roles within the department and was successful in being appointed to the Head of Service in June 2020.  The biggest difficulty I have had to overcome is my own insecurities around my ability to do the job and being taken seriously as a young, female manager.  I still struggle with it now at times especially when challenged by someone older and more experienced. 

 Who has been your role model and why?

Dave Eldon, former Head of Legal Services and MHLU, because he gave me my first management opportunity and coached and counselled me through it in readiness for the Head of Service role.  He was a fantastic leader but also a fabulous person.

If you could give your younger self advice what would it be?

What you think matters in your teens and early 20’s, doesn’t.  Catastrophizing and worrying about the unknown doesn’t prevent it happening.  In fact, you may then experience it twice: firstly when worrying and secondly when it happens. 

What’s the best thing about your job / role?

As my role is within Corporate Affairs I have exposure to all services, different types of professionals and specialisms and many skilled and interesting people.  A lot of ‘ad-hoc’ queries come my way and I feel like a ‘professional fixer’ at times.  I love helping staff in their clinical and non-clinical roles.  The work referred to Legal Services could be described as morbid at times but it is extremely interesting. 

Do you have a motto?

“If you’re good enough, you’re old enough” (my dad) and “if you look after your staff, they’ll look after you” (Dave Eldon). 

Amanda Dunkley.jpgTell me a little bit about your career path and how you overcame any difficulties

I was the first person in my family to go to University (both my parents left school at 15 with no qualifications).

I was the first person in my family to go to University (both my parents left school at 15 with no qualifications). My career started in the private sector and then I moved in to the public sector, first in Whitehall at H.M Treasury and then the CQC. After leaving the regulator I joined the NHS.  My ‘niche’ is working in People Solutions – specialising predominantly in resourcing and staffing issues.

I have been very lucky to have had some incredible bosses who have believed in me when I haven’t thought I was capable of that next step up. I’ve also encountered senior leaders who treated their staff so appallingly that they taught me never to treat people the way they made me and other colleagues feel. I am very pleased that sexist behaviours (from some men, not all) that were considered acceptable in the 80s and 90s no longer are… I really believe that as a woman and mother, my duty is to make it better for my daughter and her friends. After all, that is what my mother and grandmother’s generations did for us.

Who has been your role model and why?

Emily Pankhurst was a native of Manchester just down the road from my home town of Bolton! A woman’s right to vote was hard fought in this country. People all round the world die (daily) fighting for the right to vote and self-determination. Women historically have been marginalised and we should never take our vote for granted. Taking my daughter to vote for the first time was a proud moment and I hope I have instilled in her how important this is.

If you could give your younger self advice what would it be?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s ok to make mistakes, just make sure you learn from them!

What’s the best thing about your job / role?

I love my job and I know I am really lucky to say that. I am part of an incredible team and although there are bad days. Most days I bounce out of bed in the morning. I don’t wear a uniform, drive an ambulance or perform surgery but my team and I are crucial to the NHS. Everyone I work with, we all go above and beyond, we all care passionately and we all play our part. The NHS is a national treasure and the people of Cumbria, our colleagues and patients are really special. I am proud of my job and my team.

Do you have a motto?

Make sure your voice is heard. Say what you believe. We are so fortunate in the West that we can do this. Fight hard against anyone who tries to remove your right to free speech. Make sure you laugh every day.  It really is the best medicine!

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