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President, patrons and advisors

President, patrons and medical advisors

Our President, Clare Francis MBE, has worked closely with Action for M.E. since 1987 and has had M.E. for more than 20 years.

Clare is a full-time writer, with 12 novels and three works of non-fiction to her name. She was born in Surrey and attended the Royal Ballet School and an A-level college before taking an Economics degree at University College London.

She worked as a marketing executive before starting her five-year sailing career, during which she sailed the Atlantic solo and led a 12 person crew in the Round The World yacht race. Her honours include the MBE, Fellowship of University College London and Honorary Fellowship of UMIST. She says:

"When I first went public on M.E. I wondered whether I was doing the right thing. I was nervous for all the usual reasons - being disbelieved (yet again), being dubbed neurotic (and in public). But I have to say that, despite the slings and arrows, I do not regret my decision for a single moment. Indeed I am proud to stand - or should I say, flop - beside you all on the barricades. If I have lost a few friends through my illness (and which of us haven't) I have gained many more."

We are proud to count on support from five Patrons:

  • Lord Melvyn Bragg
  • Julie Christie
  • Prof Anthony J Pinching
  • Lord David Puttnam CBE
  • Alan Cook CBE

Our Vice President, Martin Arber, was involved with Action for M.E. even before it became a charity in 1988.

Initially he dealt with telephone enquiries from subscribers to the journal. Martin Lev, then-editor of our membership magazine, InterAction, introduced him to Clare Francis and Sue Finlay who had already started an M.E. charity in Scotland.

In 1989 it was decided to change what was essentially a pressure group into a charity and the name was changed from M.E. Action Campaign to Action for M.E. Martin became one of the first Trustees and in 1992 became Chairman of the Board.

Under Martin’s leadership, Action for M.E. grew to be the largest M.E. charity. He retired from both the Chairmanship and the Board in 2002, but motivated by the effect that the financial and service cuts are having in 2011 on people with M.E., Martin decided to renew his interest in grassroots campaigning and is becoming involved in liaising with local M.E. groups.

Our Medical Adviser

Dr David Strain is our Medical Adviser and was appointed in June 2021.

Dr Strain brings a wealth of clinical and academic experience to our charity, as Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School and as a consultant to the Devon M.E./CFS specialist service. He leads the British Medical Association’s Covid-19 response team and has repeatedly drawn parallels between Long Covid and M.E./CFS, calling for research to benefit all post-viral illnesses.

Sonya Chowdhury, Chief Executive, Action for M.E., says:

Dr Strain brings considerable experience and insight to the charity. As a physician, he has supported people with M.E. and Long Covid and has a good understanding of both health and research, which will strengthen our work and the support we provide to people with M.E. His appointment is an incredibly positive step and I hope the community will join me in welcoming him to the role.”