Published: 05 March 2020

Meet the academic: Melaine Coward

Professor and Head of School for Health Sciences, Melaine Coward shares her unconventional journey into healthcare education.

professor and head of school for health sciences
Please could you introduce yourself – perhaps you could tell us something that isn’t on your staff profile page?

I’m a nurse which had been a dream of mine since I was 13 years old. My passion for healthcare and getting the very best for patients has never wavered.

What many people don’t know about me is that I am obsessed with all things penguin – at home, at work, everywhere!


What’s your favourite memory of being a student?

I didn’t enjoy school but I undertook a pre-nursing course at a sixth form college alongside my A-levels. My favourite memory is the first time I went on a placement in a day centre where I bathed a total of 15 people in a day – I loved it and I think I made them all feel very nice and maintained their dignity. After that, the memories are endless, I love learning.


How and why did you become an academic?

When I was a manager in the NHS I spoke to the local university about the lack of cancer specific courses for staff. They offered me a position as a Lecturer Practitioner to fix it. I worked in both roles for 18 months but the hours of two jobs got ridiculous. I went back to clinical practice and within 24 hours I realised I had gone the wrong way – I knew I could make a bigger difference to patient care in education. I began searching for a job and came to Surrey as an unqualified tutor in cancer nursing.


What excites you most about your current role?

Every day is different. Every day I have conversations with staff, students and clinical practice colleagues who inspire me. Our department has benefited from the new Kate Granger building which has completely re-energised me.


What is your particular area of academic expertise, and why are you passionate about it?

My passion is reflection, in the form of professional knowledge acquisition. I truly believe it makes healthcare practitioners more thoughtful, equipping them to deliver the best care that is evidence-based but also compassionate. Whether I am teaching, researching or supporting colleagues to develop their reflective thinking, writing or practice, I truly believe it makes a difference. It opened my eyes to what is in front of me, the opportunities to learn and how to become more curious.


Why should people study at postgraduate level in your academic area?

The School of Health Sciences is really dynamic. We have some amazing staff, all of whom are keen to improve patient care and health service provision. We are also interested in the wellbeing of healthcare staff, an emerging area of research which I believe we are leaders in – even incorporating this theme into our undergraduate curriculum. If you come and study for a postgraduate degree with us, you will be well supported while maintaining your passion and motivation from the energy we have.


What are you looking for in a postgraduate student?

Someone who knows where they are heading, is ambitious to bring about change and improvement in their practice.


Is there a particular memory of your time at Surrey (so far) which stands out for you?

This month I will have been working at the University for 19 years, which even I am shocked by. I don’t have a stand out memory but rather a collection of so many good ones. Overall, I feel lucky to work within such an amazing team but also grateful to have been invested and believed in.


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