Making new connections with old friends at the first Topol Digital Fellowship conference

Published on 04 April 2022, by Louise Booth

Professional networks, Fellowships and scholarships, NHS Digital Academy

Friday 11 February 2022 was a very exciting day for me as the Programme Manager for the Topol Digital Healthcare Fellowship, as it was the first Topol conference and the first face-to-face meeting of Cohort 2!

We were at the ICC in Birmingham; the stage was set, and we had 30 empty poster boards waiting for the Fellows to fill them with the stories of their incredible journey all capturing their digital health projects. Six months in the planning and all I could think was 1) I hope people attend and 2) I hope they enjoy it! Well after a nerve racking first half hour, they did all attend, and the poster boards were filling up nicely.

The Fellows were borderline giddy, our invited guests were excited, and our speakers were champing at the bit to get on stage and do what they love, engaging with people – apart from me, I was somewhere between terrified and overly excited about being on a stage for the first time since before the pandemic!  

The day was fantastic. We had a packed agenda where we talked about the risks of burnout, had time to reflect on the Fellowship year, talked about advances in artificial intelligence and took all of the learning from the year to plan a transformation project in 15 minutes and present it in two! This was an amazing example of what can be achieved with a group of enthusiastic Topol Fellows and fantastic facilitators. Finally, we considered what could be next for the Fellows in terms of their own professional development.

There was plenty of time for networking and any worries that I had about mixing what had been an entirely virtual cohort in a room physically very quickly disappeared. Everyone at the conference spent time talking to each other, making connections, and learning about the wide variety of projects that will impact our NHS and ultimately our patients. There was a buzz in the air for the entire day, some of which may have been coffee fuelled, but mostly, I believe it was due to like-minded people being together and getting excited.  

The conference reminded me of the importance of our networks and making true connections with people. I will admit that I was surprised that it felt like a group of friends meeting up for the first time in a long time, when in reality, none of us had ever met face-to-face. The conference supported those connections, and I hope in some cases friendships, to be cemented over shared experiences and a journey that they travelled together, even if the vast majority of it was virtual.

With Cohort 3 launching in April and 50 new Fellows full of enthusiasm waiting to start, I am excited to be planning the face-to-face launch event so that we can create a solid foundation for networks and relationships that will support the Fellows through the exciting next 12 months of their Topol Digital Fellowship.

LB Picture of Louise Booth

Louise Booth


Programme Manager

Digital Readiness Education Programme

Health Education England

Louise Booth is a Programme Manager for Health Education England working in the national Digital Readiness Education Programme. Prior to HEE Louise worked in clinical education the North West of England across a variety of NHS Trusts and has over 10 years’ experience in the public sector. In her current role Louise manages the Topol Digital Health Fellowship and works collaboratively with a number of partners to develop colleagues across the NHS, supporting them to deliver digital health innovation projects. This is part of a wider piece of work within Health Education England to improve the health and care workforce’s skills for a digitally advanced future in healthcare.

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