Tell us a little about yourself, and what attracted you to studying/working at the University of Oxford?
I have been involved in Neuroscience research all my career. Before joining the University of Oxford, I was the Global Therapeutic Head for Neuroscience and Global Head, Science for Minds at Johnson and Johnson (J&J). Before joining J&J, I was Director of the NIH Mood and Anxiety Disorders Programme, the largest programme of its kind in the world. In my previous roles at both the USA National Institutes of Health and at Johnson and Johnson, I was proud to contribute to the discovery, development, and launch several new medications for serious neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. Now as co-chair of the Mental Health Mission and in my role with Oxford, we aim to foster a step change in the way we think about mental health, mental illness and its treatment to support the development of critically needed treatments for serious mental illness.
What is your vision for the team/project/research you study/work with?
The Mental Health Mission is an initiative organization bringing together the public sector, patients and industry as equal partners. We aim to advance mental health research and the development of new treatments and technologies both in the UK and internationally. The mental health mission is committed to prioritizing patient needs, advancing new treatments that directly address patient-reported symptoms, and aligning the objectives of the medical industry with the major unmet needs of patients. The Mental Health Mission has been launched under the auspices of the NIHR TRC mechanism, with the University of Oxford as the lead site.
What is currently at the top of your To-Do List?
One of my top priorities is building public awareness about mental health as a public health crisis, but one that we can solve. Neuroscience has advanced significantly, and we’re at an exciting inflection point in the development of innovative new therapeutics. By reducing stigma, breaking down silos, prioritizing collaboration across sectors, and ensuring that mental health research is made a priority, we can rapidly advance treatments and clinical practices that make a real difference for people suffering from serious mental illness around the world. I believe that the UK has many of the “key pieces” needed to bring about transformational changes that will help reduce the burden of mental illness, and help address this incredibly pressing health, economic, and social justice issue; unfortunately, today many individuals with mental illness in the UK receive sub-standard treatment and care – I believe that the MHM can begin to change that. Our goals are, first, to develop translational and clinical mental health networks that would make the UK the most attractive place to undertake research of this kind and, second, to bring improved treatments and care to its citizens. To ensure that outcomes are deeply meaningful to patients and their families, we are will ensuring that the MHM embraces those with lived experience.
We are determined to implement the Mental Health Mission’s focus on proactive, precision medicine and holistic care to improve the lives of the millions of individuals in the UK suffering from these devastating disorders.
How did you get to where you are today?
I have been very, very fortunate to have many mentors, collaborators and partners who have been on this journey with me to revolutionize mental healthcare. No one organization or person can do it alone.
Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired by witnessing the resilience and strength of mental health patients and their families; their courage in facing and overcoming challenges motivates me to contribute to the field and work towards improving mental health outcomes for individuals and communities. I’m also inspired by the extraordinary neuroscience that is now coming to fruition after decades of research with a significant impact for patients with Alzheimer’s, mental health conditions and other brain-related maladies. Looking at science in new and exciting ways has led to major breakthroughs that provide hope for patients in many illnesses, and I am confident that we will be doing the same in mental illness.
If you were not in your study programme/job currently, what would you like to be doing?
I think that many of us are very privileged and fortunate to be able to help others with our work. Iam incredibly passionate about my work and can’t imagine doing anything else with my time. Helping to advance neuroscience for the benefit of patients is deeply personally and professionally satisfying.