Who we are

Our history, our Trustees, and our Executive Team.

Our organisation has a long history, stretching all the way back to 1927, and the founding of the Asthma Research Council. In 1989 we became the National Asthma Campaign, which in turn became Asthma UK in 2004.

In 2020 Asthma UK merged with the British Lung Foundation to become the Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Partnership. As a partnership of equals, we are now in a strong position to share our combined energy and passion to make a difference for all people affected by asthma and other lung diseases.

Our strategic direction is set by our council of trustees, who ensure we achieve our objectives while upholding the charity’s values.

Our trustees

Baroness Tessa Blackstone – Chair

Baroness Blackstone is a Labour peer and has chaired the board of a wide range of organisations. She studied at the London School of Economics (LSE) where she went on to take her doctorate. Her academic career began as a lecturer in social administration at LSE. Later, she became professor of educational administration at the University of London Institute of Education.
She was minister of state in the Department for Education and Employment and then in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Tessa has published widely in academic journals, and written a number of books, mainly on social and educational policy.

Professor Ian Hall – Vice Chair

Ian is Director of the NIHR-Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre and works clinically as a respiratory physician, running a specialist clinic for patients with severe asthma in Nottingham. Ian has over 25 years’ experience in this clinical area and in 1993 was appointed as the inaugural National Asthma Campaign Senior Research Fellow. Ian has been heavily involved in research management and clinical academic training at a national level, as well as medical education. He chairs the UK Respiratory Research Collaboration. Ian has supported Asthma UK over many years, serving on the Asthma UK research panel, contributing to Asthma UK reports, and participating in workshops for a range of activities including EARIP. 

Jim Bowes

Jim became a trustee in March 2017 to help Asthma UK maximise the benefit of its use of digital technology. He is the founder of digital agency Manifesto. Jim has worked in digital for over 20 years helping people create products and services around the needs of users, working predominantly across the health, housing and charity sectors. He presents the podcast Alexa Stop!, which discusses the impact of technology on our lives. Jim is Chair of the Nomination and Remuneration Committee.

Emily Bushby

Emily is Chief Operating Officer at Guarantco. Her previous roles have included leading the finance function of a medical related charity, mergers and acquisitions for a highly acquisitive FTSE 30 business, and investment management within the banking sector. She trained as a chartered accountant at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in London and is an alumnus of Exeter University, where she gained a BSc in Psychology.

Caroline Cartellieri

Caroline brings over 25 years’ experience in e-commerce, digital strategy and marketing. 

Her previous roles include that of Chief Commercial Officer of Ennismore, Chief Digital Officer at Sun European Partners and Director of Digital Transformation at glh Hotels.  Before that she held the role of Chief Operating Officer of MySpace International as well as senior positions at Expedia and Kingfisher.

Prior to this she founded a pioneering e-commerce business in New York City.  She started out her career as a consultant for the Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey & Co.  

Caroline is a Governor of the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, an Independent Member of the National Information Board and served as a Trustee of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust from 2013 to 2019.

Edwin Chilvers

Edwin is Professor of Medicine, and Head of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London. His research interests are in inflammatory cell biology – relevant to a range of inflammatory lung diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and acute lung injury. Before taking up his current post, Professor Chilvers was Professor of Respiratory Medicine at Cambridge from 1998-2018. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2007, serving on Council between 2013-16, and was President of the British Thoracic Society in 2016-17.

Isabel DiVanna

Isabel is a director-level business development and marketing professional. She is currently the Executive Director, Commercial and Customer Experience, at RenewableUK, the trade association for green energy. She has been a director of corporate partnerships and business development in London and in Cambridge, and she spent many years working on professional development, continuing training and executive education. She has experience working in the professional services (consulting, research and advisory) and not-for-profit sectors (education, charities, Royal Charter, local government, professional and membership bodies and trade associations) seeking to grow their portfolio and business through fundraising, partnerships and commercial activities. She is a fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts, of the Chartered Management Institute and of the Institute for Leadership and Management. She is also a trustee of Papworth Trust.

John Graham

After completing a chemistry degree at Oxford University, John trained as an accountant with Deloitte. He worked in industry with BP, the Seiko Epson Group in the UK and eventually became Finance Director of Northamber plc, a FTSE 250 company. In 1996 he became Finance Director of NSPCC, and in 2008 moved to the Royal British Legion as Finance Director.
During his 20 years with the charity sector, John has been involved in a number of sector initiatives including advice on pensions and risk. For eight years he sat on the Charity Commission SORP committee helping to articulate the international accounting standards for the benefit of the charity sector.

Katherine Morgan

Katherine is Director of Marketing and Transformation at Fenwick. Previously she was Head of Business Planning for Sainsbury’s Argos, providing insight and governance for various steering groups and Board level committees.  Katherine has wide experience balancing customer, commercial and strategic initiatives and hopes to use this to support the partnership’s future activity.

Mike O’Connor

Mike has held CEO posts since 1989 with his last fulltime role at StepChange Debt Charity, the UK’s largest debt advice charity.  He was CEO at Consumer Focus, the statutory consumer body; the Olympic Lottery Distributor and the Millennium Commission.

His early career was in the Department of Health, where he was the Private Secretary to two Ministers, and in HM Treasury and Cabinet Office. He was a Trustee of the Mental Health Foundation and Action on Smoking and Health. 

He is a member of the Advertising Advisory Committee at the Advertising Standards Authority and Vice Chair of the London Irish Centre Charity.  He received a CBE for public service in 2000 and is a member of the Council of Fellows of the University of Keele.

Niren Patel

Niren is an investment strategist at Aviva Investors, and is responsible for building bespoke investment strategies for institutional investors across all areas of design, management and client delivery. Prior to joining Aviva Investors, Niren was a Director within the Solutions business at BlackRock. He worked with a number of large UK Defined Benefit pension funds to design, implement and evolve their investment strategies. Niren began his career at KPMG LLP where he worked both in investment and pension consulting. Niren is a Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.

Professor Ian Sabroe

Ian is a consultant in respiratory medicine in Sheffield, and an asthma specialist. He undertook a PhD in asthma-related research at the National Heart and Lung Institute at the Royal Brompton Hospital, and has continued research in this area as a consultant and Professor at the University of Sheffield. Ian helps to coordinate care of people with asthma across the Yorkshire region. He has worked with Asthma UK before on its Research Committee, and has had funding for his research from Asthma UK.

Our Executive Team

Sarah Woolnough – Chief Executive

Sarah is CEO of Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation. She oversees all aspects of the organisation. Sarah is Co-Chair of the NHS England National Respiratory Board, which directs NHS England’s efforts to improve outcomes for those with respiratory disease. Sarah also sits on the Board of the Accelerating Access Collaborative, a key government initiative aimed at encouraging swifter adoption of new technologies and treatments to tackle ill health. Sarah has a background in policy and communications, having spent many years as a Board member at Cancer Research UK, and has been heavily involved in several tobacco control and other prevention campaigns.

Ben Clarkson – Chief Operating Officer

Ben joined Asthma UK in September 2019 to lead the Operations team, incorporating the Facilities, Finance, Governance, People, and Technology functions. He is also Company Secretary. A CIPFA qualified accountant, Ben started his career in the public sector with the Audit Commission, where he led audits across a range of local government and NHS clients. From there, he moved into the not-for-profit sector with Macmillan Cancer Support, where he was Head of Financial Operations. Ben then moved to the London Community Foundation, where he was Director of Finance and Resources, before joining Asthma UK. Ben is a trustee of Lewisham Speaking Up, a charity for adults with learning disabilities, and also sits on the CIPFA Charities and Public Benefit Entities Faculty Board.

Dr Alison Cook – Director of External Affairs

Alison worked as a broadcast journalist and programme editor for the BBC in news and current affairs for over 12 years, before starting a career in strategic communications. She worked for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority as Head of Press, before moving on to work in government as a policy communications advisor to Ministers, in both the Department of Health and Number 10. Her first role for a charity was as Director of External Affairs for Alzheimer’s Society. A scientist by background, Alison completed a PhD in signals processing in the nervous system, followed by a post doc in colour vision at University College London.

James Culling – Director of Fundraising & Engagement

James is a communications specialist with nearly 20 years of not-for-profit experience. Although starting his career in marketing and public relations, he now specialises in fundraising – most recently driving income growth at Parkinson’s UK. He has also worked for a wide range of charities and organisations within the sector – including disability, cancer, development and mental and physical health. James is also a Trustee of a local Mind Association covering Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes.

Mike McKevitt – Director of Services

Mike joined the BLF in 2010 and has over 30 years’ experience in the not-for-profit sector working for a variety of national charities. These have included causes such as homelessness, child poverty and supporting adults with complex long-term medical conditions. Previously he was Head of Regional Care Development (South) with the Motor Neurone Disease Association.  Mike has a specific interest in patient-led peer support groups and the positive impact they can have on user wellbeing.

Dr Samantha Walker – Director of Research & Innovation

Samantha joined Asthma UK in January 2011. A nurse by training, she maintains her research activity through an honorary senior lectureship (non-clinical) in the Division of Community Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, and has published extensively on asthma and allergy for over 25 years in high impact research journals.