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UEL alumna honoured for successful career change in field of mental health

east london and thames river

Dr Melinda Rees switched from being a NHS clinician to become managing director of Beacon UK

By Lee Pinkerton

A former University of East London (UEL) psychology student has been recognised at an awards ceremony for making a successful leap from NHS clinician to senior manager. 

Dr Melinda Rees, (pictured centre) who studied at UEL for a BSc in psychology followed by a professional doctorate in clinical psychology, was presented with the ‘NHS-to-Managing Director Transition’ award by the Cambridge Health Network (CHN). 

The CHN promotes collaboration between the public, private and academic sectors by connecting more than 1,700 of the UK's most prominent healthcare leaders.

“To go from being a clinician to a managing director is a relatively unusual journey,” said Melinda. “I think many clinicians lack the confidence to take a different path, but I want to encourage them to consider additional choices.”

After being awarded her doctorate in 2000, Melinda took up two posts. One was in the NHS to set up and run a primary care service to look after the mental health needs of the homeless, asylum seekers and refugees. The other was as a specialist trauma therapist for the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture (now known as Freedom from Torture).

Over the next few years, Melinda was involved with rolling out the primary care service across Newham and leading adult mental health services in Camden and Islington.

In 2014, she made a career switch from clinician to health care management when she left the NHS to become clinical director of Beacon UK – an independent mental health services company that works with the NHS to deliver mental healthcare to patients across the country. She was appointed managing director last year. 

“I’m still very much a clinician inside,” she said. “I still have that drive, but I now apply that motivation to a different set of clients. I think I’m more effective in that role because I’m working on a systems level.  I might have seen 60 patients a year as a therapist. Our services are seeing 30,000 children a year.”

So what advice does Melinda have for current psychology students?

“If you become a clinician in the NHS it can be very hierarchal and it keeps you in your place,” she said.  “But don’t let a clinical psychology programme train you out of who you are. 

“You may well come out of your training and be a clinician, but don’t forget to look around you and see how else you can make a difference.  Don't assume its somebody else's job to change the system."