close
close

Honorary title for Rugby doctor and Chief Nursing Officer

Queen Margaret University (QMU) today awarded honorary degrees to two “exceptional healthcare workers”.

The first is Dr James Robson, MBE, a Scottish doctor who, as Scottish Rugby's Chief Medical Officer, has made an immense contribution to the welfare of players for generations. He is also a graduate of Queen Margaret University in Physiotherapy.

Dr Robson has been part of the medical team at eight Rugby World Cups with the Scottish national team and on six British & Irish Lions tours. This is testament to the respect he is held throughout the game and his commitment to supporting and improving players' physical wellbeing in a sport that places enormous demands on their bodies. His experience and knowledge has been used to promote concussion awareness and to conduct research that supports player welfare initiatives both in Scotland and internationally. He has advised on and supported changes that make rugby safer and helped develop the sport's first Brain Health Clinic in Edinburgh, which, in partnership with the Brain Health Trust, invites former international players for a brain health check.

During the Lions' iconic 1997 series win in South Africa, James provided life-saving assistance to England centre-forward Will Greenwood, who had suffered a serious head injury during a tour match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. But James' proudest moment as a medic may have been a 2010 Six Nations match between Wales and Scotland in Cardiff, when he used his expertise to help save the winger from paralysis after an injury to Thom Evans.

The Scottish Rugby Association inducted James into its Hall of Fame in 2017 in recognition of his services to the sport and in 2018 Her Majesty The Queen awarded him an MBE in the New Year Honours. In 2024, at his last home game before retirement – a Scotland victory over England – James will have the honour of lifting the Calcutta Cup on the pitch alongside the Scottish players.

The second is Professor Alex McMahon, who has left a lasting mark on the Scottish health system through his tireless commitment to the highest standards of patient care. Until a few months ago, Professor McMahon was Chief Nursing Officer for Scotland, where he demonstrated a deep commitment to the nursing profession and advocacy for health professionals. His leadership has been characterised by compassion, integrity and a relentless pursuit of excellence during some of the most challenging times for the country's health service.

He started in various nursing roles in Lanarkshire NHS and quickly progressed through the career ladder, moving to Edinburgh to work at the Royal College of Nursing where he held various development, advisory and policy roles before working as Head of Government and Industry Affairs for AstraZeneca, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies.

This was followed by roles with the Scottish Government, where he was able to advise and work with ministers and health boards to drive strategic improvements in mental health and learning disability. This was followed by a series of senior strategic planning roles with NHS Lothian, where he drove change and innovation in mental health and learning disability, drug and alcohol treatment, cancer treatment and palliative care, and made great strides in improving patient safety. Indeed, infection prevention and control was high on Alex's list of priorities and he has worked tirelessly to strengthen our defences against infectious disease, protect lives and promote the wellbeing of patients and staff alike.

Over the course of his career, Alex McMahon has worked in clinical, managerial, strategic, policy and government roles in Scotland. As a nurse at the highest levels of health and government, he has seamlessly navigated the complex interfaces between the NHS, private health, government and the Royal College of Nursing – gaining the trust of ministers, civil servants, NHS chief executives and managing directors, as well as senior clinicians, frontline staff, patient groups and the public.

Although he has retired from his role as Chief Nursing Officer, he is now Chair of the Independent Steering Group for the Review of Practical Nursing and Midwifery Education. This review has the potential to transform the way we develop and deliver nursing and midwifery degree courses. He was also recently appointed Chair of the Review of Mental Health Nursing in Scotland.

Sir Paul Grice, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen Margaret University, said: “We are truly honoured to have two such extraordinary health leaders at our graduation ceremony.

“James Robson embodies the great value that QMU places on individual and collective support. His career demonstrates how intellectual curiosity and a commitment to lifelong learning can pave a path to great adventures, unforgettable experiences and deep personal fulfilment. This honorary award recognises his commitment to supporting the health, wellbeing and development of Scotland's athletes and those of the UK as a whole.”

Sir Paul continued: “Alex McMahon's collaborative spirit fosters partnerships that improve patient outcomes and add value to the nursing profession. His delivery of world-class safe and effective healthcare and his transformative leadership of the profession have brought together diverse professional bodies on a common path towards a healthier Scotland. This honour recognises his unwavering, sustained commitment to patient care, his tireless advocacy for the nursing and midwifery profession and his ability to create and implement change under pressure.”

Two outstanding Scottish health experts have been awarded honorary doctorates from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. Dr James Robson MBE, former Chief Medical Officer for Scottish Rugby, and Professor Alex McMahon, former Chief Nursing Officer for Scotland, were both awarded honorary doctorates from the university. PHOTO Alan Simpson
Two outstanding leaders in Scottish health have been awarded honorary degrees from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.
Dr James Robson MBE, former Chief Medical Officer for Scottish Rugby, and Professor Alex McMahon, former Chief Nursing Officer for Scotland, were both awarded honorary doctorates from the University. Both are pictured with Dame Prue Leith, Vice-Chancellor of QMU.
PHOTO Alan Simpson
Two outstanding leaders in Scottish health have been awarded honorary degrees from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.
Dr James Robson MBE, former Chief Medical Officer of the Scottish Rugby Association, and Professor Alex McMahon, former Chief Nursing Officer of Scotland, were both awarded Honorary Doctorates from the University. Both are photographed with Dame Prue Leith and Paul Grice.
PHOTO Alan Simpson
Two outstanding Scottish health experts have been awarded honorary doctorates from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. Dr James Robson MBE, former Chief Medical Officer for Scottish Rugby, and Professor Alex McMahon, former Chief Nursing Officer for Scotland, were both awarded honorary doctorates from the university. PHOTO Alan Simpson
Two outstanding Scottish health experts have been awarded honorary doctorates from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. Dr James Robson MBE, former Chief Medical Officer for Scottish Rugby, and Professor Alex McMahon, former Chief Nursing Officer for Scotland, were both awarded honorary doctorates from the university. PHOTO Alan Simpson

Founding Editor of the Edinburgh Reporter.
Edinburgh-born multimedia journalist and iPhone photographer.