Dame Jennifer Harries shares insights on her career, family influence, and managing public health threats with Sir Andrew Pollard. Highlights include Salisbury novichok incident preparedness, COVID19 response efforts.
Sir Andrew Pollard, sat down with Dame Jennifer Margaret Harries DBE, the Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health in the UK, to discuss the critical role of public health in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During their conversation, Dame Jennifer shared insights into her early career, her motivations for working in medicine, and her family's connection to public health research.
Dame Jennifer explained that her interest in public health was sparked at an early age. Her father had worked in the Salisbury Common Cold Unit where they conducted human challenge studies, which piqued her curiosity about the intersection of medicine and public health. This early exposure to the field inspired her to pursue a career in healthcare.
Throughout her career, Dame Jennifer has been at the forefront of managing external threats to health, including chemical and radiation incidents, as well as pandemics. She shared that much of the work happens behind the scenes, with her team responding to various challenges all across the UK, often unbeknownst to the general public. She emphasized the importance of their swift response and diligent efforts to ensure the health and safety of the population.
Dame Jennifer also discussed her experience during the poisoning event in Salisbury, where her team had to quickly step up their game. She highlighted the readiness of the national plans and how they were able to respond effectively to the incident. This experience further reinforced the importance of preparedness and coordination in public health responses.
As the Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, Dame Jennifer took on a crucial role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She shared that she was aware of the emerging news about the virus at the end of 2019 and was actively involved in preparing the health service for the potential impacts.