Founder and Chair of Fifth Sense
In 2005, as the result of a severe head injury, I lost my sense of smell. Before then, like most people, I took this sense for granted and had little understanding of the contribution it made to my quality of life.
Told that I would just have to live with it by my doctor, I spent over six years thinking I was one of a handful of people on the planet affected by this hidden condition, but without fully understanding or engaging with my loss. In 2011 I read a book called Season to Taste about Molly Birnbaum’s experience of anosmia, which was a revelation. I was subsequently introduced to Carl Philpott who had established the UK’s first NHS smell and taste clinic and realised that there was a huge need for a charity in this area.
My goal was to create the organisation that I wish had existed to support me with my loss; a charity to help and inform people affected by smell and taste disorders, transform society’s understanding of the importance of these senses and drive research into better understanding and treating these conditions. I’m incredibly proud of the organisation we’ve created, our values and ethics and our fantastic team of staff, trustees, volunteers and advisors.
I’ve worked in the Higher Education sector for many years and enjoy leading projects that bring together people and organisations with different skills/experiences and creating the conditions that enable them to achieve shared goals, something I’ve done a lot of at Fifth Sense.
Before starting the charity, I was involved in music for many years as a guitarist and worked on an eclectic range of projects. I’ve applied my creativity to Fifth Sense along with the experience I’ve gained from the music business of delivering projects with minimal resources.
I still love to pick up the guitar when I get the opportunity and I enjoy getting out into the countryside, on foot or on my bike. I love food and cooking – I’m known for making a mean curry – and have a strong interest in how we can use our other senses to compensate for the lack of flavour that results from anosmia.
Director of Development & Operations at Fifth Sense
I first came across Fifth Sense after learning about the organisation on Twitter. At the time, I have to admit, I knew very little about smell and taste disorders but it didn’t take long for me to recognise that my episodic smell hallucinations (cigarette smoke) and my brother, who has a learning disability and autism, being acutely sensitive to smells were formally recognised conditions.
From that first chance encounter on social media, I was delighted to join Fifth Sense in early 2020 and be part of a great team all working together to make a positive difference to people living with a smell and/or taste disorder. l bring 15 years NHS operational experience with me, I’m a qualified teacher, have an MSc in Healthcare Leadership and am a graduate of the NHS Leadership Academy Nye Bevan programme, all of which I will use to champion the importance of the senses of smell and taste, collaborate with others, engage with vital research and develop support for people affected by smell and taste disorders.
I’m lucky to live in Morecambe Bay, where the lakes meet the sea, and am currently (slowly) walking my way through the 214 Wainwright fells. We are also keen quizzers – but I’m resisting my children’s ambition to see me appear on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.