Rhodes University academic and alumnae win big at inaugural ISCHP awards

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Distinguished Professor Catriona Macleod
Distinguished Professor Catriona Macleod

By Lindeka Namba, School of Journalism and Media Studies student


The International Society of Critical Health Psychology (ISCHP) recently launched its inaugural awards at its bi-annual conference, hosted across several virtual hubs worldwide. Rhodes University researcher and academic Distinguished Professor Catriona Macleod and two of her Critical Studies in Sexualities and Reproduction research programme (CSSR) alumnae featured extraordinarily well at the awards. 

Prof Macleod received the Lifetime Achievement award, which is the highest honour. Colleagues recognise the recipient of the award as an international leader in the field. Professor Macleod, who had the most nominations for any person in the awards process this year, is Chair of the CSSR. She has also been an active contributing ISCHP member for many years and organised the 2015 conference at Rhodes University.

For Prof Macleod, the nomination and subsequent award came as a pleasant surprise. "I was not aware of any of these nominations; it was a complete surprise because I did not know that anybody had nominated me," she said.

She also noted that these awards are a testament to the power of collaboration – citing that the more they work together, the better their ideas become. "What we have tried to create here at the CSSR is a very supportive and constructive environment where we try to work in a way that is collegial, supportive, encouraging and still rigorous in a way that validates people," she said. One of the aims of the CSSR is to have critical research taken up in policy and practice. "What is important about this kind of award is that it shines a light on the kind of work that we do, giving it visibility and enabling us to continue to translate our work into policy and practice," said Macleod. Prof Macleod was even more enthusiastic about two of her former students also winning awards.

The Emerging Researcher Award went to Dr Ally Gibson. Dr Gibson completed her Master's degree through Rhodes University under the supervision of Prof Macleod and currently works as a lecturer of health psychology at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. Gibson has published extensively and served on the ISCHP Executive Committee for eight years, starting as a student representative and recently as an early career representative and Chair of the Conference Organising Committee. She was another of the founding editors of the ISCHP podcast, The Operative Word, with Brett Scholz. Through this platform, she increased the reach of critical health psychology by building a listenership that spans every inhabited continent and many countries beyond the usual reach of ISCHP conferences. 

Dr Gibson, whose award also came as a surprise, said: "It means a great deal to me to be recognised for my contribution to the field of critical health psychology. I attribute my criticality to the teaching and supervision I received at Rhodes University, particularly under Prof Catriona Macleod's mentorship." Gibson also stated that the award affirms the work that she is doing in gender, sexuality, and relationships and will encourage her to keep following her path. 

The Mid-Career Researcher Award went to Dr Tracy Morison. Dr Morison is a research associate of the CSSR and completed her Doctorate through Rhodes University under the supervision of Prof Macleod. Morison now works at Massey University in New Zealand. She also continues to work collaboratively with Prof Macleod on current research projects. Dr Morison received the award for her valued contribution to critical health psychology through her work on reproductive justice and theory and analysis around narrative-discursive methods. She has also recently been appointed as one of the Editors of Feminism & Psychology.

"It is very validating to receive this award from a group of scholars whom I admire and looked up to as a student. It is also meaningful for me as I move out of the early career phase and into my mid-career – a sign of being acknowledged by the community of scholars I respect and learn from," said Morison. "For me, receiving a reward from critical health psychologists speaks to the excellent training in critical psychology I received at Rhodes University, and in particular through the Psychology Department. I am very grateful to have been taught by some excellent scholars and supervised by a scholar of Prof Macleod's calibre," she added.  

Members of ISCHP share an interest in critical ideas and various qualitative and participatory methods of research and their relevance to understanding health and illness. Further, they share an awareness of the social, political and cultural dimensions of health and illness and an active commitment to reducing human suffering and promoting improved quality of life, especially among those sections of society most in need. Since the first International Conference on Critical and Qualitative Approaches to Health Psychology, held in July 1999, attendees identified an urgent need to establish a network to begin to connect those health psychologists throughout the world who were interested in developing a more critical approach to the subject. The ISCHP was established as a result of this need.


Find out more about the ISCHP and the work they do on the ISCHP website https://ischp.net/