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Sport and Exercise

One on One... with Fehmidah Munir

Health psychologist and Senior Lecturer at the School of Sport, Exercise; Health Sciences, Loughborough University

21 January 2014

One person who inspired you
My Aunt Zarina Malecki. She trained as a nurse but went on to accomplish all kinds of vocations, skills and ambitions related to education and health – her latest project is setting up and running an NGO in Malawi for abused women and orphaned children– the Fatima Centre. She shaped my passion for psychology and doing something beneficial for those who need help and support.

One moment that changed the course of your career
I did my PhD in the area of neuropsychology and then switched to an academic career in health psychology (specialising in occupational health) after a chance encounter with Professor Tom Cox. I worked at his institute as a lecturer for about five years before moving to Loughborough. I’ve never regretted the switch and am grateful for his enlightenment!

One nugget of advice for aspiring psychologists
All great achievements require time (Maya Angelou).

One neglected factor in health interventions
Many healthcare-led rehabilitation interventions  for chronic conditions do not address work factors adequately (if  at all) as part of their intervention. This means that if work (e.g. the job tasks aggravating the problem, poor social support, problems with line manager/employer not understanding the illness, etc.) is a significant contributing factor to the condition (or not being able to go back to work), then recovery will be slow or temporary and in some cases, with a high risk of relapse. This can further lead to all kinds of psychological issues for the individual such as low self-esteem and depression. Part of the problem lies with a lot of medics not highly regarding complex interventions and the other part of the problem is getting joined-up action between healthcare and employers. There is a big role for occupational health psychologists here…

One cultural recommendation
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More (Roald Dahl). The stories are aimed at a slightly older audience and written at varying times throughout Dahl’s life. I first read the collections when I was 14. I guess you could say that this was the first of many books that also inspired me to study psychology.

One problem that psychology should deal with
Psychology doesn’t promote itself enough to other professions – especially the contribution it can make to a diverse range of fields; i.e. from neuroscience to healthcare engineering and environmental conservation. This is important if psychology is to survive in universities.

One proud moment
Obtaining my PhD because it made my mother very happy and fulfilled both our dreams. My mother has a mild learning disability which has hindered her considerably in life. When I was young, I remember people often laughing at her when she pronounced things incorrectly or used the wrong words. As a result of her experiences my mother was keen for us all to do well in our education so that we could stand on our own two feet. Studying psychology has helped me understand her better and support her.

One psychological superpower
To place my hand on the forehead of someone with  a specific perspective on an issue and transfer the feelings and perspectives of the other party so that for a split moment, he/she completely understands where the other person is coming from and how they are feeling. And then do vice versa.

One final thought
You are never too old to set a another goal or to dream a new dream (C.S. Lewis).