In anticipation of our Health + Wellness issue, we put out a call to the public asking the question “Who is our 2020 health hero?”. With over 1600 votes, the answer is clear: Biomedical researcher Dr. Carika Weldon is an undeniable force in Bermuda’s fight against COVID-19.
At the start of this year, Dr Carika Weldon was working comfortably in her lab at the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford when unexpectedly the world changed—COVID-19 was on the rise.
Having spent the last decade in genetic research labs developing nanopore sequencing and analysis, Dr. Weldon found herself in a unique position: she was perhaps the only Bermudian capable of developing a functional COVID-19 testing lab to facilitate mass-testing in Bermuda. On March 24, she received a call. At the request of the Hon. Premier David Burt, Dr. Carika Weldon was headed home to Bermuda.
“I knew that my knowledge was valuable and because of that I had to return to the island. It would have been a disservice to my country had I chosen to remain in England.” Whilst negotiating her new role with the Premier, Dr. Weldon expressed that she wished to work without pay. “I was really inspired by the health-care workers in the UK who were working around the clock on the NHS [National Health Service] without any increase in pay,” she explains. “I wanted the Premier to know that this wasn’t a situation I was interested in capitalising on.”
After months of hard work, seeing Bermuda through a global pandemic has been no easy feat, and according to Dr. Weldon, it has driven home the need for affordable health care in Bermuda. “People will arrive at our testing sites and say, ‘I don’t have health insurance’ or ‘I’m not sure if my insurance covers testing.’ There’s no charge for testing but it shows how conditioned we are to assume that anything related to health care is expensive,” she explains.
For Dr. Weldon, the fight is far from over. “It’s clear the virus isn’t going anywhere,” she says. And neither is she. In mid-August, Dr. Weldon returned to England to pack up her belongings and relocate her life and her work. “There’s a need for me to be in Bermuda to see our island through this pandemic. I’m committed not only to running the testing lab but also teaching students how to run the lab, too,” she explains. “It’s important that I spread awareness of the value of biomedical research and I hope that in that way, I am an asset to the young Bermudians hoping to one day enter the field.”