Professor Rona Moss-Morris
Chair in Psychology as Applied
Head of Health Psychology
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
I have had an unusual trajectory into science. My early career was as a clinical occupational therapist (OT) and at that time I had no intention of becoming a scientist. I loved clinical work and my aim was to try and make a difference to the lives of people dealing with illnesses. OT provided a good foundation for the work I do now as it included training in both mental and physical health. My work with patients made me increasingly aware that too often these aspects are separated in our current health system with detrimental results. When an opportunity arose to return to post graduate study I decided to investigate this further by focusing on patient groups who really loose out in the current system, those considered to have medically unexplained physical symptoms. Overtime I realised the issues for those with physical illnesses were not too different to those with medically unexplained illnesses and my work expanded to look at adaptation to long term conditions and managing difficult and unpleasant symptoms.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
My research focuses on understanding psychological factors that affect symptom experience and adaptation to LTC’s . The data from this research is used to inform the development of self-management and cognitive behavioural interventions for adjustment to LTCs and symptom management. I work closely with people affected by illnesses in designing the interventions. We are increasingly moving into developing e health interventions which can hopefully offered in a more cost effective manner. Randomised-controlled trials to test the clinical and cost effectiveness of these interventions form a key component of my research.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
My most rewarding achievement has been to create a team and a work environment where people enjoy coming to work (well at least most days).
I also work as a national advisor to NHS England for Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies for people with long term conditions. My hope is through combining this role with my research and clinical knowledge I can contribute to the health agenda at a more macro level.
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
I don’t have one particular role model but have been inspired by a number of people for different reasons. I think the key is not to emulate or try and be anybody other than you. However, it is worth looking out for what you admire in others and incorporating elements of this into your own style and way of being. When I was offered my post at KCL just over three years ago, I was privileged to take over from Professor John Weinman one of the most respected health psychologists in the country, and indeed one of my mentors from my early days as a post graduate student. If I had been told as a student that I would be doing this 14 years later I would just laughed. They were very big shoes to fill, but I decided if I was to do the job, the best thing was to bring myself to the role rather than trying to replace John. This really helped not to feel too daunted by the task.
What if any support has most benefited you in your career?
Support for me has largely come in the way of people making suggestions of things I should do. Being encouraged to take on challenges has given me confidence to do things that I might not have taken on left to my own devises.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
Mentoring young people.
Meeting lots of really interesting and fun colleagues who I not only enjoy working with, but who have become very good friends over the years.
Designing therapies and supervising the therapists. This helps me stay centered in clinical work.
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
This is an ever increasing challenge and each year there seems to be more demands. I do worry that my research time is increasingly whittled down by other demands of my job so I am not sure I have the answer to this.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
Again –this is an increasing challenge. I am lucky enough to have a very tolerant husband who also works long hours and is happy for me to travel and do the things I need to do to get the job done. Work often creeps into nights and weekends but I am firm about taking my holiday. Travel is one of my passions and when away, I am able to switch off from work and make the most of it.
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
Don’t be afraid to take on challenges even if they seem very daunting at the time. Have fun along the way by working with people you like and enjoy. Make sure you are passionate about what you do. If you are not – the hours can seem very overwhelming.
And finally - don’t let anyone expect you to check email whilst on annual leave.