Helen Pattison 1955-2021

A tribute from Dr Rachel Shaw and Professor Richard Tunney (Aston University).

It is with great sadness that we write to tell you that Professor Helen Pattison has died. 

Helen joined Aston from the University of Birmingham 17 years ago, and before that, she was at Loughborough. She brought with her expansive knowledge and experience of clinical trials, interdisciplinary working, and a desire to set up a centre of excellence in health psychology. As a result Aston can claim to be one of the UK’s biggest providers of BPS-accredited health psychology training at MSc level with the largest cohorts of campus and online students.  

Helen’s close collaborations with the Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital, with her clinical colleagues and those working in the areas of biomedical ethics and parental health behaviour brought with her a strong profile of applied health research, informed by psychology. Helen contributed psychological and methodological expertise to a number of clinical trials focusing on women’s reproductive health and paediatric health. She was also interested in women’s experience of pregnancy, and debunking urban myths such as ‘eating for two’ and the ‘pregnancy brain’ or ‘baby brain’.  

Later in her career, and as technology progressed, Helen became interested in self-testing kits and the potential impact of those on illness perceptions, symptom perceptions, and ultimately the ways in which people managed their own diagnosis and health behaviours. This and other projects brought with them interdisciplinary collaborations within Aston, notably with pharmacy.  

As well as her contributions to this highly impactful research, Helen has been a significant figure across the university. Most recently, she worked closely with others on the foundation of a new Medical School, bringing her many years’ experience to bear on the challenge. She held the position of Associate Dean for Research, and, for a number of years, and took up the position of Head of the Psychology Department. Helen’s commitment to rigorous research and to making a difference was evident throughout each of these roles.  

As Head of Psychology, it was clear that Helen was always working towards creating a happy and supportive working environment. As we all know, this can be a particularly challenging task at times! Nevertheless, Helen has always been supportive to her colleagues, helping them to be the best that they can be.  

This depth of commitment and mentorship was also extended to her students, at all levels. But this was not limited to her own students, Helen was always in favour of active research groups and providing researchers across their career trajectories with safe spaces to discuss their ideas, present their research, and to practise answering those tricky questions that Helen was always ready to ask.  

Helen received her first degree in Psychology in 1977 from Cardiff, an MSc in Mathematical Psychology from Stirling in 1978, and a PhD from Reading in 1983. She was a member of the Experimental Psychology Society until her death. Helen will be remembered with great fondness. 

The photo includes from left to right: Professor Jackie Blissett, Professor Helen Pattison, Professor Roslyn Bill, and Professor Claire Farrow.

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