Society of Occupational Medicine female president

Professor Anne Harriss occupational health news

The Society of Occupational Medicine today welcomed its first nurse President, Professor Anne Harriss.

Professor Anne Harriss, the first nurse to become President of the Society of Occupational Medicine, has succeeded Dr Will Ponsonby, following a year as President Elect. In a step towards a more egalitarian approach towards the Occupational Health discipline by the Society, Professor Harriss’ appointment is the first time that the role has not been fulfilled by a Physician.

“A focus of my role will be ensuring that Government and business understand the role of occupational health and asking for universal access to it. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance to the economy and public health of effectively supporting workplace health.” Said Professor Harriss.

The Society released a statement saying “There is a strong economic case to implement access to occupational health for all employers. Occupational health services are key in supporting employees back to work and keeping them in work safely during these challenging times. Anne brings a wealth of experience to highlight the vital role occupational health plays”.

Professor Harriss originally trained as a nurse at St Thomas’ Hospital London and then practised and at the Royal College of Nursing, subsequently completing an MSc in Occupational Health at the University of Surrey.

With varied practice experience, including working for a major chain of hotels, in the oil and gas industry, the pharmaceutical industry and also running her own consultancy, a significant part of Professor Harriss’ career has also been spent in education.

Passionate in ensuring that education is fit for both purpose and practice, Professor Harriss has been course director for occupational health (OH) nursing programmes at the Royal College of Nursing and London South Bank University, where she was course director for programmes in both Occupational Health nursing and OH health and safety.

Professor Harriss has been awarded Fellowship of the Royal College of Nursing and Honorary Fellowship of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine. She is also a recipient of a National Teaching Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. Professor Harriss also became the first person in the Faculty of Health at London South Bank University to become a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2015.

In addition to her “day job”, Professor Harriss has been involved for over 18 years in developing, leading and delivering pro-bono public health projects in rural South Africa, and over the last two years has undertaken projects with the New Zealand Association of Occupational Health Nurses.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Professor Harriss has delivered SOM webinars, some in association with organisations such as ACAS, CIPD and Mind, and has helped to develop the SOM Return to Work toolkits, which have been designed to help managers and occupational health professionals get workers back to work safely post-lockdown.

In becoming President of the Society, Professor Harriss will oversee an organisation that is a true multi-disciplinary professional society, whose membership includes over 1,700 OH doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and technicians.

Society of Occupational Medicine Patrons are Lord Blunkett, Dame Carol Black and Sir Norman Lamb. The Society was founded in 1935 as the Association of Industrial Medical Officers and changed its name to become The Society of Occupational Medicine in 1965.

In 2012, the Society opened its membership to all health professionals working in occupational health (OH). Since then the Society’s membership has grown to include OH nurses, technicians, physiotherapists, psychologists, and other OH professionals.

Occupational Health Assessment is proud to share the aims and principles of the Society, to further the development of professional occupational health and help to drive business performance improvement across the UK.

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