Board of Trustees

Our Board of Trustees is responsible for the strategic management of the organisation and delivery of our charitable objectives. It also has a legal responsibility to ensure the charity complies with current legislation and governance best practice.

Our Trustees are not remunerated, they hold voluntary posts. Our Board is made up of very experienced and talented people, many of whom have a direct personal understanding of inherited sight loss.

Martin Kirkup

Dr Martin Kirkup

Chair

Martin spent his early career in marketing working in transport and logistics. He later worked in consultancy advising companies in the UK, US, Western Europe and Russia before moving into healthcare in 2007. During 13 years working in healthcare he has served at board level with Exemplar Healthcare Ltd, The Learning Clinic and Care UK.

Martin currently runs his own interim and board advisory practice and has recently been appointed to the boards of two care provider companies. Having studied and worked extensively outside of the UK he speaks fluent French and reasonable German.

His son was diagnosed with Stargardt’s at a young age which has led Martin to take a close interest in the progress of research into Retinal disease. Martin has campaigned with the RNIB and independently to raise awareness of the lack of accessible school curriculum materials. He recently chaired a fundraising campaign that successfully raised £3.5m to build a science centre at a Buckingham school.

Janet Crookes

Janet Crookes BA FCA

Treasurer

Janet joined the Board in 2012.

With 17 years’ experience as a partner at Grant Thornton UK LLP, Janet has amassed a wealth of experience in strategic, financial and people management and has spent much of that time working with charities of all shapes and sizes.

Her son was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in 2007 at the age of 15 and Janet’s husband Phil has since been involved in fundraising for the charity.Janet calls upon both her personal and professional experience in her trustee role.

Lynda Cantor

Lynda Cantor MBE

Hon. President

Lynda Cantor was a founder member of the charity in 1975 and one of our original trustees, and was the driving force behind its development from a small community group to a respected medical research charity, roping in many other key people along the way.

Since the formation of the charity, Lynda has contributed as much unpaid work as anyone, driven by the impact of retinitis pigmentosa on her own life and frustration at the lack of knowledge that existed in the early days.

She was also involved in the formation of Retina International. Lynda was recognised for her work with the award of an MBE in 1994.

Roger Backhouse

Roger Backhouse

Roger has retinitis pigmentosa, as do his son, mother and grandfather. He was officially diagnosed aged 16.

Roger has worked for the past 30 years in the city in the field of Energy Insurance. He joined Sedgwick Offshore Resources in 1980 and is currently Head of the Offshore Energy and Marine division of JLT Specialty.

Roger lives near Guildford with his wife and three children. His mother was one of the original members of the charity and he has been an active fundraiser for us including running the London Marathon in 2010.

Roger brings both his personal experience and business acumen to bear in his role as Trustee.

Elizabeth Graham

Dr Elizabeth Graham FRCP FRCOphth

Dr Graham undertook research into the basic mechanisms of retinal vasculitis, inflammation of the blood vessels in the retina, and is an important cause of poor vision in patients with uveitis, inflammation of the uveal tract.

Inflammation of the eye has remained her chief clinical interest and in particular the optimum management of patients with this devastating disease.

She has written over 150 peer reviewed publications and has contributed 10 chapters to text books and given five eponymous lectures.

She was appointed consultant to the Medical Eye Unit at St Thomas in 1988 and was also one of four eye consultants at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and looked after children with inflammation of the eye associated with arthritis at Great Ormond Street Hospital. She is a well-respected national and international authority on the management of patients with uveitis.

She has been responsible for developing a training programme for medical ophthalmologists in the United Kingdom and has had a pivotal role in developing postgraduate examinations for ophthalmologists as well as working for the General Medical Council as a performance assessor.

John Marshall

Professor John Marshall MBE

Prof John Marshall is the Frost Professor of Ophthalmology at the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London; Emeritus Professor of Ophthalmology at Kings College London; Honorary Distinguished Professor University of Cardiff; Honorary Professor the City University and Honorary Professor Glasgow Caledonian University. He is one of our longest serving trustees.

His eye-related research over the past 40 years has been wide ranging but has concentrated on the mechanisms underlying age-related, diabetic, and inherited retinal disease and the development of lasers for use in ophthalmic diagnosis and surgery. This has led to the development of the Excimer laser for the correction of myopia as well as some 300 research papers and many books. John edits a number of international journals and has been awarded numerous medals for research.

He has been a staunch supporter of the organisation since its inception in the mid-1970s.

rachael stevens

Rachael Stevens

Rachael Stevens joined the board in 2014. She is affected by retinitis pigmentosa so has a particularly strong commitment to our work, both medical research and the provision of support services.

As a founding member of The Old Vic Theatre Company she acquired excellent fundraising, PR, and project management experience working in the US and UK. Subsequently as a freelance consultant she has raised money for arts projects from trusts, commercial and public sources.

Rachael is well travelled and has a young family. In addition to contributing at a strategic level she supports the charity’s RP Young Professionals group and our fundraising efforts in London and surrounding areas. Rachael is also training to become a psychotherapist.

Lucy Withington

Dr Lucy Withington

Lucy has 14 years’ experience in global financial markets; at Santander and Royal Bank of Canada. She leads a team developing mathematical software for trade valuation and risk management. Lucy is particularly effective at assessing complex systems and implementing solutions. She brings experience of project management, developing strategy and her knowledge of technology to our charity.

Lucy has worked with a number of charities in volunteer roles including fundraising and assistance dog training. She is a trained sighted guide for people with visual impairments. Lucy holds a First in Engineering Science from Oxford University and received her doctorate from Warwick University. She joined our Board of Trustees in 2015.

Simon Keightley

Simon Keightley

Simon spent 40 years as a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at the North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke. He specialised in the management of retinal diseases, especially diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration, the commonest causes of sight threatening problems. In addition, he spent many years as an examiner for the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, eventually becoming Senior Examiner and chair of the College Examinations Committee. He was also Director for Examinations of the International Council of Ophthalmology, organising the assessment of ophthalmologists across the world as well as working as a performance assessor for the General Medical Council.

Simon is also interested in vision and driving, having worked as chair for the Ministry of Transport Medical Advisory Committee for Vision and Driving. He is well aware of the impact the loss of a driving licence can have for people affected with sight-threatening diseases. He also worked for a while for the International Paralympic Committee in assessing visually impaired competitors for their individual classification group.

Paresh Makwana

Paresh Makwana

Paresh comes from over 17 years experience in business development within finance and procurement. He has worked within the healthcare space, and more recently in public sector. During this time, Paresh has worked for large commercial organisations such as Capita and Advanced.

Paresh has also been volunteering for the Metropolitan Police for over 10 years as a Special Police Sergeant where he is working within their roads / traffic team.
His wife was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 17 which has led Paresh to take a keen interest in research within retinal eye diseases.

Paresh has been involved with the charity for a number of years and is looking forward to see how he can add benefit moving forward.

Ashley Grist

Ashley Grist

Ashley is currently the Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, International for Vertex Pharmaceuticals. He is responsible for the company’s financial activities outside of the US and Canada, which includes being a great finance partner to the International Leadership Team, ensuring strong oversight of accounting and controls, and taking statutory and fiduciary responsibility for the legal entities.

Ashley was drawn to Vertex because of its patient centricity, science-led approach and focus on rare diseases. With more than 25 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry, he has witnessed the positive impact pharmaceutical companies can make to the lives of patients and is proud of the small contribution he is able to offer.
Prior to joining Vertex in 2018, Ashley worked for 3 years at AstraZeneca where he was Vice President, Group Financial Controller. Previously he spent 19 years at GlaxoSmithKline where he worked in a variety of different senior finance roles in the UK, France, Spain and Central and Eastern Europe.

Ashley holds a BSC Hons in Mathematics from Bristol University and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales.

Outside work, Ashley enjoys spending time with his wife, Jo, and their four daughters ranging from the ages of 13 – 23.

Vanessa Forster

Vanessa is delighted to be a Trustee of Retina UK. She is the General Counsel at the Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national data science and artificial intelligence research institute. Vanessa is fascinated about the impact data science has on our society, ethics and healthcare in particular.

Prior to this she worked for over 7 years in the City as a lawyer, first with Allen Overy as a trainee and subsequently with Akin Gump, a large US international law firm, as an associate in its Global Transactions Group. She took up a role in industry as the European Counsel in a US listed technology and engineering multinational. These experiences covered the technology, engineering, and healthcare sectors.

Vanessa has held various board and committee positions including as a trustee for the Tropical Health & Education Trust, and on one of the Law Society’s ED&I Divisions as well as working for the British Counsel.