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Professor Anne Harriss has been announced as the first nurse president of the Society of Occupational Medicine.
She has promised to highlight the importance of health in the workplace, which she said the coronavirus pandemic had shone a light on.
“Covid-19 has highlighted the importance to the economy and public health of effectively supporting workplace health”
Professor Harriss succeeded Dr Will Ponsonby as president during the society’s annual general meeting today.
She is the first non-physician and first nurse to serve as its president and spent a year as president-elect.
The organisation describes itself as a multi-disciplinary professional society whose membership includes over 1,700 OH doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and technicians.
It 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, it opened its membership to all health professionals working in occupational health, with its membership growing to include nurses and other occupational health professionals.
Professor Harriss said: “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,” she said.
Society chief executive Nick Pahl said: “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 trained as a nurse at St Thomas’ Hospital London and then at the Royal College of Nursing. She completed an MSc in Occupational Health at the University of Surrey.
Her experience includes working for a major hotel chain, the oil and gas industry, pharmaceutical industry and her own consultancy, with a significant part of her time having been spent in education.
She has been course director for occupational health nursing programmes at the RCN and London South Bank University.
“Anne brings a wealth of experience to highlight the vital role occupational health plays”
Professor Harriss was awarded fellowship of the RCN and Honorary Fellowship of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine.
Recipient of a National Teaching Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy in 2014, she 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.