'Our students looked into medical device racial bias'

Davidson Inventors Challenge finalists

Samantha, Christina, Esme, Emma and Maisie designed a pulse oximeter which aims to eliminate racial bias - Credit: South Hampstead High School

With the Covid wolf at the door once more, it’s important to reflect on all the many wonderful contributions that have made a positive difference to others’ lives since the pandemic began.

I’d like to pay tribute to the irrepressible enthusiasm of our pupils for leading initiatives like our Giving Joy club, crafting incredible gifts to raise funds for local charities; for volunteering with Feast With Us, who combat food poverty across north London; and supporting the Doorstep Homeless Families Project, located just moments from our school. Throughout the pandemic, they have discovered a renewed sense of purpose and given the best version of themselves – a version which is measured not in grades or externally validated achievements, but in kindness, courage and hope.

When the health secretary Sajid Javid hit the headlines just last month, ordering a review of medical device racial bias, I was proud that a team of our sixth form scientists had already been investigating the issue for nearly a year.

Vicky Bingham South Hampstead High School (1)

Vicky Bingham is proud of the optimism her students have shown - Credit: South Hampstead High School

Research suggests that oximeters, clipped to a person’s finger, can overstate oxygen saturation levels for ethnic minorities. At the start of 2021, five of our A level students decided to explore the issue and developed the Panoxi – a recalibrated device for more accurate readings on patients with darker skin tones; their invention was shortlisted in the national Davidson Inventors’ Challenge run by the University of Cambridge. As finalists, they presented their project to MP Nadhim Zahawi, who was then the parliamentary under-secretary of state for Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment, back in May.

Such examples of ingenuity provide optimism in the face of adversity and demonstrate just how resourceful young people can be under challenging circumstances.

Whatever 2022 brings, I have faith that we are witnessing the emergence of a generation of creative, agile, resilient, problem-solvers – trailblazers who will go on to lead with a sense of responsibility, dignity and purpose.

Vicky Bingham is headmistress at South Hampstead High School.

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