Indian Origin Doctor in UK Wins Royal Academy Award for Transformative Work during Pandemic

Dr Ravi Solanki and Raymond Siems are volunteers for the charity HEROES. In less than two days, their team turned an idea into a platform with genuine impact: creating a secure website to provide much-needed support for frontline NHS workers

LONDON (TIP): Dr Ravi Solanki, an Indian-origin physician is among 19 winners of the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering President’s Special Awards for Pandemic Service for exceptional engineering achievements in tackling COVID-19 throughout the UK.

During the early stages of the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown, two things were obvious: the NHS needed more support and the public wanted to help. As everyone was required to stay indoors as isolation requirements intensified, it became clear this goodwill needed to be channeled digitally.

Dr Pimenta’s idea for HEROES, the NHS charity founded by and for NHS workers, was quickly supported by former premiership footballer Joe Cole, and the race to build a secure and fully functioning website was live before it was talked about on primetime TV.

Ravi Solanki, a physician working on neurodegenerative diseases, and Raymond Siems, an engineer working in machine learning, volunteered to fulfil this need. They started building only 36 hours before Cole appeared on Good Morning Britain to promote the newly launched charity. The website included a crowdfunding page and resources for NHS staff as well as directing members of the public to NHS-approved COVID-19 information, crucial at a time when misinformation was spreading rapidly.

The duo then worked alongside Evan Martin and Wilson Griffiths to make the platform more sophisticated and efficient, ensuring it could enable funding, provide counselling and wellbeing services, childcare support and sustainable PPE to NHS workers. This included building secure end-to-end infrastructure to allow NHS workers to apply for and receive financial relief grants digitally. Staff can now submit an application through the HEROES website and, if approved, payments are made directly to their bank account with notifications sent to their NHS email address.

Solanki and Siems built the website using GatsbyJS, Netlify, Firebase and introduced a content management system so that non-engineers within the leadership team could more easily update content with resources ranging from mental health resources to ambassador announcements. They also partnered with low-cost payment processor Banked to allow members of the public to make donations without paying administration fees to other platforms.

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