Professor Ted Gordon-Smith stands down as Chair of trustees

 

I am delighted to see the AAT entering what I might call a ‘third phase’. The first began whilst I was at the Hammersmith Hospital with the establishment of the Marrow Environment Fund (MEF). It was established by families, friends and patients with a variety of bone marrow failure syndromes, both acquired and constitutional. The original trustees including Jamil Amyuni, Philip Goodwin and Adrian Watney under the chairmanship of Spencer Loch gave unstintingly of their time and expertise to get the charity off to a flying start. Their motivation arose from firsthand experience of these rare, devastating and poorly characterised diseases.  The rather general name of the charity expressed the broad remit of its objectives but perhaps did little to raise awareness of the individual diseases for the general public.

The MEF continued its support when I moved to St George’s Hospital in Tooting in 1987, culminating in the formal opening of the research laboratories by Joanna Lumley in 1992 and the specially designed Ruth Myles Unit by Prunella Scales in 1995. At St George’s, support for research and management of the constitutional marrow problems was taken up by other committed groups and the MEF support became mainly for acquired aplastic anaemia (AA). Bryony Dettmar (now Bryony Partridge) had started a support group for patients with AA and brought her organization into the fold of the MEF. The name of the charity was changed to the AAT in recognition of the thrust of its charitable efforts at that time. This phase saw the retirement of one of the great champions of the charity, Philip Goodwin as Chair of trustees, a role subsequently taken on first by Theresa Khairallah and then by myself.

Anna Martin was appointed executive officer and served the charity devotedly for over 11 years. Many readers will remember her indefatigable efforts in fundraising as well as her empathy with patients.  Anna personally raised funds by “savage“ swimming and sky diving despite herself having AA.

Perhaps a third phase may be considered to have started after I retired and Professor Judith Marsh took on the role of national referral expert for AA and moved to King’s College Hospital where many AA patients continued to be referred and treated. The move has reawakened interest in the broader field of non-malignant bone marrow failure syndromes with the realization that there are many overlapping interests in both research aims and patient care between the various disorders.  In some ways this phase is a return towards the aims addressed in the first but of course so much has been learned and so much put into practice since that early phase that the new look is truly new and exciting. With its broader remit and more nationally inclusive scope I am confident that, under the chairmanship of Sven Moos and the professional guidance of Grazina Berry, our CEO, the AAT will emerge again as the principle national charity working through research funding towards a better understanding of these rare diseases and through patient support to better care.

The next decades hold as much promise of success in the pursuit of our aims as the first four and I retire as the chair of trustees with thanks to all you have made the charity so successful and in the certain knowledge that it will continue to flourish and indeed expand in future.