Three new dames and an OBE on New Year list

Ella Rhodes spoke to the psychologists awarded honours.

Picture: Clockwise from top right: Professor Til Wykes, Professor Nichola Rumsey, Professor Margaret Whitehead and Professor Lesley Fallowfield.

Three leading psychologists have been awarded damehoods and one an OBE in the New Year Honours list. They have been recognised for work in cancer services, public health, clinical psychology and for helping those living with an altered appearance.

Professor Dame Lesley Fallowfield, Director of Sussex Health Outcomes Research & Education in Cancer (SHORE-C) (University of Sussex), the professor of psycho-oncology to be awarded a damehood, expressed her delight and surprise at the honour. She told The Psychologist: ‘It is personally satisfying but more importantly a worthy and fitting tribute to all the amazing patients with cancer who have contributed to the research done by my team SHORE-C at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. I have no idea who were the generous people who felt motivated to nominate me, but I’d like to thank them and the doctors and nurses I’ve been privileged to work with over the years.’

Til Wykes, Vice Dean of Psychology and Systems Services and Professor of Clinical Psychology and Rehabilitation at King’s College London, was awarded her damehood for services to clinical psychology. She said she was proud to be able to include service users in her research at the KCL Service User Research Enterprise, and pointed out how generous these people had been with their time.

She added: ‘The honour is important. I come from working-class beginnings, not privately educated, not an Oxbridge graduate and not a man, which The Times identified as the characteristics of most receiving honours. So this is also an award for women in science. But it is also one of the honours for contributions to mental health, bringing it to the attention of the public and fighting stigma.’

But, Wykes said, there was still much to achieve in terms of finding better treatments, reducing stigma and including service users and their families in services and research. ‘We now await the Mental Health Taskforce and hope that the research section is not watered down and that the government will take the mental health research priorities seriously by backing them with hard cash. That will be my next campaign and I hope many others will join me.’

Professor Dame Margaret Whitehead was given her DBE for her work in public health. Her fascinating career has involved research on social and health inequalities and as well as being Head of the Department of Public Health and Policy, Institute of Psychology, Health and Society at the University of Liverpool. She also works for the World Health Organization as head of the Collaborating Centre for Policy Research on the Social Determinants of Health.

After an initial degree in biology and experience in medical, research Whitehead became interested in taking a more whole-person approach and began work looking at populations and wider implications affecting people’s health. In the 1980s Whitehead was involved in updating the Black Report – a seminal review of health inequalities in the UK which the Tory government chose not to act on. This, and a similar response to the Whitehead Report, only led to the documents achieving worldwide attention and becoming a Penguin non-fiction bestseller (Inequalities in Health).  

Along with colleague Göran Dahlgren, Whitehead also developed the widely cited and influential Dahlgren–Whitehead model to illustrate determinants of health. She told The Psychologist: ‘When I found out I was on the list my initial reaction was disbelief followed by being overwhelmed and humbled. But I’ve had a wonderful response from people and it’s slowly sinking in.’

In her future work, Whitehead said, she is hoping to develop ways of evaluating population-wide policies that tackle working and living conditions. She added: ‘The University of Liverpool is very supportive of public health, and the city of Liverpool as a whole has a long and proud tradition of action on public health. The whole context of the place is very nurturing for these ideas.’

Awarded an OBE was Professor Nichola Rumsey, Co-Director of the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) which she founded at the University of the West of England in 1992. The centre has since grown to become the world’s largest research group focusing on the role of appearance and body image in people’s lives (see

Rumsey has built an international reputation for her research in the field, which started with the completion of her PhD Psychological Problems Associated with Facial Disfigurement in 1983. Since then she has attracted more than £7 million funding to support research on appearance. She also worked as the British Psychological Society’s consultant to the Department of Health from 2004 to 2010, is an Honorary Life Member of the South African Burns Society, and an Honorary Life Member of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.

She said she was honoured and humbled to receive the award, and added: ‘In a world ever more preoccupied with appearance, living with disfigurement can present significant challenges. The contributions of the Centre for Appearance Research in addressing the needs of affected people and their families have been achieved by a team of enthusiastic, hard-working and committed researchers over the past 25 years.’  

Rumsey added that she felt privileged and proud to have played a part in the team since its beginnings and added: ‘UWE has encouraged CAR to grow and flourish since the establishment of the Centre in 1992. The enthusiasm for CAR’s work and pride in the Centre’s accomplishments have been crucial to its success.’

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, was also named a CBE for services to mental health; and Paul Boyle, former Chief Executive of the ESRC and current Vice Chancellor at the University of Leicester was named a CBE for services to social science. 

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