Published: 15 December 2022

Earlier this week, we announced that Louise Wood has been appointed as our new Chair. We asked Louise some questions to find out a bit more about her, her career before taking on the role, and her plans she has now she's in post.

Why are medical research charities so important?

They play a vital role in the UK’s vibrant life sciences research base by funding research, training and infrastructure and uniquely providing a direct link to the public who raise funds and the beneficiaries of the research they support. 

When did you first get involved in medical research (and why)?

My father was a research scientist and I’ve always been a curious person.  When an undergraduate at Edinburgh University, I was awarded a science faculty vacation scholarship which gave me my first direct taste of research and convinced me that I wanted to study for a PhD. An unexpected bonus was the opportunity it afforded me in the evenings to enjoy the many and varied delights of the Edinburgh Festival! 

What motivated you to become Chair of the AMRC? 

I’ve worked with the AMRC in a variety of roles during my career and also spent just over a year working on secondment in the organisation, which gave me chance to get to know our wonderful and diverse medical research charity sector better. The AMRC is a small organisation which is recognised to punch above its weight thanks to its dedicated and knowledgeable staff. I hope my experience and links across the life sciences sector will aid AMRC as it seeks to support and promote the activities of its members and their impact. 

What are your main priorities as Chair?

To champion the role and impact of medical research charities in the research and health and care ecosystems, to encourage action to promote the resilience of the sector and to support Nicola and the fantastic AMRC team.  

What do you think the future holds for medical research charities? 

I think the future is bright provided they continue to innovate, evolving thinking and practice, in areas such as engaging patients and supporters, responsible research funding and environmental sustainability. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we saw medical research charities start to close because their raisin d’etre had been addressed). For example, like all research funders, AMRC members need to respond imaginatively and proactively to equality, diversity and inclusivity issues in all facets of their organisation including who decides what they fund, where they fund, who they fund and who participates in the research they support. I’m excited by the links many charities have with patients, their carers and loved ones, service users and the wider public across the UK, and the opportunity this affords to bring their voices to the forefront of all stages of the research endeavour. I think there is more scope for collaboration between charities and with other partners to enable research to progress more rapidly or efficiently, to address areas of unmet medical need which characterise multiple conditions and to promote the uptake of research findings.

Who is your role model?

I don’t have a single role model and have been privileged to work with numerous inspirational public servants, charity leaders and academics who have shaped my thinking and approach to work and life more generally. I’ve also met a few whose modus operandi is the antithesis of how I’d hope to act! These experiences have been equally influential. I identify with Maya Angelou’s perspective that “my mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”. I think she was very insightful, particularly her observation that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. 

What one luxury item would you take to a desert island?

A photograph album to remind me of my friends and family and the important milestones in our lives and the fantastic places I’ve been lucky enough to visit. Should I be worried that I’ve only just joined AMRC and you’re already thinking of banishing me to a desert island??? 

Tell us one thing that your work colleagues won’t know about you!

I represented my school in athletics and played Right Half in the First XI hockey team.