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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 Advisers

Prof Julia Newton and Dr Gregor Purdie share the role of Medical Adviser, appointed in October 2015.

Prof Newton, Clinical Professor of Ageing and Medicine and Dean of Clinical Medicine at Newcastle University, has published a considerable body of research relating to M.E. and other chronic diseases associated with fatigue. Dr Purdie, who has been working with people affected by M.E. since he was a junior doctor in 1979, was Clinical Lead for M.E. for NHS Dumfries and Galloway until he retired last year, and was already a Trustee of Action for M.E.

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

“Bringing together considerable research experience and significant clinical expertise, Prof Newton and Dr Purdie are something of a dream team for us. I know their extensive knowledge, shared with Action for M.E. staff and Trustees, and in turn with those whom we support, will help improve the lives of those affected by this terrible condition.”

Both have worked closely with us for a number of years, contributing to the charity’s ongoing programme of UK-wide events and resources for patients and professionals.

Prof Newton’s 2013-2015 study into muscle dysfunction and M.E. was funded by Action for M.E., while Dr Purdie worked with the charity on a series of educational webinars for GPs who, according to UK-wide research find M.E. one of the most challenging conditions to diagnose and refer.