Burson-Marsteller UK poaches MSLGroup's Avril Lee to lead healthcare

Burson-Marsteller has appointed MSLGroup's EMEA head of healthcare to lead its own health practice in the UK, PRWeek has learned.

Lee will become Burson's deputy global healthcare practice chair (©Julian Dodd/Haymarket)
Lee will become Burson's deputy global healthcare practice chair (©Julian Dodd/Haymarket)

Lee (pictured), who will become Burson's deputy global healthcare practice chair starting on 19 February, has a brief to build the agency's UK and global health business. She will report directly to UK chief executive Stephen Day.

The industry veteran has held a number of high-profile roles including chief executive of Ketchum from 2011 to 2013 after rising through the Omnicom agency over a 10-year stay, having joined in its healthcare practice.

Following Ketchum she had a spell working for Luther Pendragon, and then joined MSL in her current role, head of healthcare in the UK and EMEA, in November 2015 with a mission to change the way clients engage with health professionals and consumers via social media.

Day said of her appointment: "We are thrilled Avril is bringing her world-class reputation and expertise to Burson-Marsteller and look forward to her building on our strong foundation in healthcare in London."

Lee said of her new role: "As economic changes and new initiatives for health equality across the world drive a new focus on health, never before has healthcare comms been so truly global with clients looking to reach consumers and professionals in industralised, emerging and other evolving markets."

Burson's previous UK health lead is now at Edelman.

Diversity champion

Lee, a former PRCA Council member, is also a member of the CIPR’s diversity working group, an industry issue she has been concerned with for much of her career.

She is also an ambassador for diversity charity the Taylor Bennett Foundation and is a mentor in the BME mentoring scheme launched as a partnership between PRWeek and BME PR Pros earlier this month.

Interviewed in 2011, Lee told PRWeek she did not believe the industry reflected society, adding: "It's not right and it's not good for business."

Day, who was among leading industry figures to be named in the Financial Times OUTstanding list of LGBT+ leaders in October, added: "As well as her obvious pedigree in healthcare and making London a centre of excellence for our growing healthcare practice, Avril is a long-standing advocate of diversity and equality, including BAME and LGBT issues, which lie at the heart of our business in London."

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