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Special 'Unsung Hero' award for a Derry doctor who always goes the extra mile for his patients

Doctor Neil Black honoured for his caring approach

Special 'Unsung Hero' award for a Derry doctor who always goes the extra mile for his patients

Doctor Neil Black with his award.

A doctor who helped a Derry woman deal with her eating disorder has received an 'Unsung Hero' award from a leading charity.

Dr Neil Black, a consultant with the  Western Trust, has won a Diabetes UK NI Inspire gong for going ‘above and beyond’ for his patients living with diabetes.

His nominee, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes four years ago, praised the dedicated consultant for his person centered approach that helped her through a relapse in her eating disorder and the grief of losing a loved one, as well as helping her cope with managing her condition.

She said; “Dr Black has never judged me.

“I was in recovery from bulimia for ten years before I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

“Then the eating disorder came back and I talked to him about it. There was no ‘tut, tut’ or judgement, instead he went away and read a book about it to understand what I was going through. He then passed on the book to me, which was very kind.”

Some people with diabetes can develop an unhealthy relationship or fixation on food.

This can lead to something called disordered eating behaviour or possibly an eating disorder, such as bulimia.

Diabetes and food are closely linked. Having diabetes can mean a bigger focus on diet, weight and body image. It can also lead to some people feeling negatively about food.

The nominee added: “Dr Black helped get me back on track and his approach is a very person centered – holistic one. It was the same when I lost a loved one, he was so supportive, sending emails and saying when he was available.

“He is very emphatic and goes above and beyond, I’d imagine not just for me, but for all of his patients, no matter how busy he is.”

It was these ‘little things’ that made a huge difference to the Derry woman and has helped make her life easier living with the condition.

Despite currently working around-the-clock at a dedicated COVID-19 ward, Dr Black is still managing to make time for his patients living with diabetes.

She added: “I was struggling a bit with my diabetes in September and I contacted Dr Black and despite everything he still made time to speak to me.

“I know that he won’t want this award for himself but for his team, but Dr Black is a person before he’s a doctor and he sees the person first before the condition.”

The consultant is one of three health professionals who won Inspire Awards from Diabetes UK NI.

Lesley Hamilton, also with the Western Trust, and Dr Rebecca Houghton, from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, also won the awards.

They were among a total of 13 Inspire Award winners who were celebrated during an online ceremony on November 26.

The Inspire Awards celebrate Diabetes UK NI’s dedicated volunteers and health professionals who campaign to improve the quality of care available to people with diabetes, fundraise for pioneering research and raise awareness to stem the rising tide of diabetes.     

Accepting his award, Dr Black said: “I have always felt there was something wrong with how we as clinicians relate to people who live with diabetes and ‘deliver’ care.

“We as clinicians don’t deliver care, the person living with the diabetes does.  It was gradually over years that I started to get some answers but they only came when I started to actually listen to people living with diabetes, how they described themselves and their experiences and what they valued. 

“That is why it means so much to me that this award is the result of a nomination from a person living with diabetes.”

Tina McCrossan, National Director at Diabetes UK NI, congratulated the local doctor.

“Dr Black has made a huge difference to the lives of his patients living with diabetes, by recognising the person rather than just the condition.

“His empathy for his patients goes well beyond his professional duty.

“It is his personal dedication to his patients, that has never wavered despite the demands of the ongoing pandemic, that makes him such a worthy winner of this award.”

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