Birmingham’s public health chief is among sector leaders to receive university honours

Dr Justin Varney, Jo Williams and Bill Kilvington

Birmingham’s head of public health is to be recognised by Birmingham City University for his services to the city during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Justin Varney, Director of Public Health at Birmingham City Council, will be presented with an honorary doctorate – one of the University’s highest accolades.

Jo Williams, Chief Executive of The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Bill Kilvington, Patient Safety Lead for the College of Operating Department Practitioners, are also to receive honorary doctorates during the University’s forthcoming graduation ceremonies in July and August.

Welcoming their awards, Professor Ian Blair, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences at Birmingham City University, said:

“Over the last two years, the pandemic has shone a light on our health workers like never before. From those on the front-line delivering patient care and the scientists behind the scenes, to the many people in supporting roles and those managing staff and budgets, their commitment to the health service and in turn our greater good has been evident.

“Our honorary graduates are no exception – all have made outstanding contributions to their own specific disciplines – and are worthy recipients of these awards. I congratulate them all.

“I hope also that our graduating students, many of whom will be entering health service roles, take inspiration from our honorary awardees as they embark on their own careers.”

Having originally trained in general practice before moving across to public health medicine, Dr Varney has special interests in campaigning around LGBTQ+ health inequalities, physical activity policy, domestic violence prevention, workplace health and wellbeing, and diversity and inclusion.

Dr Varney has previously held advisory roles with, among others, the World Health Organisation, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the Metropolitan Police.

Jo Williams is Chief Executive at The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (ROH) and has worked in a variety of senior management roles in several acute trusts managing operational performance, leading service transformation and delivering patient care improvement projects.

She led the creation of the ROH “Wellbeing” Hospital model which puts good staff health, wellbeing, and engagement at the heart of the organisation. This work received formal recognition when the Trust was named in the Top 50 most inclusive employers in the country last year and this year, the most inclusive NHS employer in the country.

Bill Kilvington has worked in the NHS for 44 years, during which time he has played a key role in the development of Operating Department Practitioner as a profession, including registration with the Health and Care Professions Council in 2004. He is a past Chair and President of the Professional Council of the College of Operating Department Practitioners and is its current Patient Safety Lead.

He is also a Trustee of the Action against Medical Accidents charity, and in 2018, in recognition of his contribution to the Operating Department Practice profession and patient safety, the Royal College of Anaesthetists awarded him an Honorary Fellowship.

Bill’s passion for healthcare is undiminished and he has recently returned from a brief retirement to the role of Associate Director for Women and Child Health Services at Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust.

Dr Justin Varney will receive his honorary doctorate at a graduation ceremony at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on 10 August. Jo Williams will receive hers on 9 August, while Bill Kilvington will be honoured on 11 August.


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