Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive
Simon joined the British Heart Foundation in 2013, following seven years as Chief Executive of the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society. He has a family connection with heart disease, and fundraises and volunteers for the BHF. His early career was in the Royal Navy, including command of HMS Sheffield and advising government ministers. From 2000 to 2004, he was Director of Operations at the Charity Commission. He then moved to become Head of Operations at the Healthcare Commission, where he was responsible for the inspection of NHS and independent healthcare facilities in England. Simon has extensive national and international experience of charity and non-profit governance as a non-executive director/trustee. He currently holds a number of non-executive roles, including President of the European Heart Network.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director
Professor Nilesh Samani became Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation in 2016. The BHF Medical Director oversees and sets the strategy for the charity’s research funding of over £100 million per year. Professor Samani is a former BHF Professor of Cardiology and Head of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Leicester. He is a Consultant Cardiologist at the Cardiac Centre, Glenfield Hospital, Leicester where he continues to undertake clinical work. He is also Director of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Unit in Cardiovascular Disease. Professor Samani’s research interests are focused around understanding the inherited basis of common cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease. He has published over 450 research papers and is one of the most highly cited researchers in the world. For his services to the community, Professor Samani was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Leicestershire in 2009. In the 2015 New Year’s honours list, Professor Samani was awarded a knighthood for his contribution to medicine and medical research.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director
Professor Jeremy Pearson joined the BHF as Associate Medical Director in 2002. Professor Pearson’s research career focused on the responses of vascular endothelial cells to vasoactive and inflammatory mediators. Professor Pearson led research teams at the Babraham Institute (1970-1983), and at the MRC Clinical Research Centre in Harrow (1983-1991). In 1991 he was appointed Professor of Vascular Biology at King's College London (KCL) – the first role of its kind in the UK. In 2002 he became Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, but continues to spend some time in academia and retains an emeritus Chair at KCL. Professor Pearson was also vice chairman of the HEFC RAE 2008 subpanel A1 (Cardiovascular), and a member of the REF 2014 subpanel A1 (Clinical Medicine). He was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2004 and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 2006.
Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director
Dr Mike Knapton joined the BHF as Associate Medical Director in January 2006, from a clinical background. He trained as a GP at Cambridge University, and has significant experience in Primary Care roles, including working for 30 years as a general practitioner (GP) and supporting with heart patients as a cardiology assistant at Addenbrooke's Hospital. He has held a number of roles in the NHS in addition to working as a GP, including GP Tutor, Chairman of the Cambridge City Primary Care Trust (PCT) Professional Executive Committee and Medical Director at the combined South Cambridgeshire and Cambrigde City PCT. In 2013 he was appointed as a non-executive director of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. As Associate Medical Director (Prevention Survival and Support) at the BHF, Mike is responsible for initiating innovative programmes for all people at risk of, or affected by, heart disease, and leads the charity’s efforts to prevent avoidable heart disease, save lives and maximise recovery and quality of life. He is also a much sought-after spokesperson in media work for the BHF’s health campaigns.
Professor Metin Avkiran, Associate Medical Director
Metin Avkiran was appointed as Associate Medical Director for Research at the British Heart Foundation, on secondment from King’s College London, from September 2016. At King’s, he is Professor of Molecular Cardiology and Deputy Head of the Cardiovascular Division within the British Heart Foundation Centre of Research Excellence, where his laboratory’s research focuses on investigating the molecular signalling mechanisms that regulate cardiac function in health and disease. He has previously served as Chairman of the British Society for Cardiovascular Research and President of the International Society for Heart Research.
Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian
Victoria Taylor is a registered dietitian with over 18 years of experience working in health and charity sectors. She also has a master’s degree in food policy. Before joining the BHF, she worked for the NHS, first in a hospital and then in public health where her work included advising on school meals, community food projects and weight management programmes to improve people’s health. Victoria joined the BHF in 2007 where she now provides expert advice on diet and the links with cardiovascular disease and helps with the development of a range of food and nutrition resources for the charity. She also acts as a spokesperson on all aspects of food and cardiovascular disease.
Tracy Parker, Heart Health Dietitian
Tracy Parker has been a registered dietitian for over 15 years during which time she has worked in an acute NHS setting, specialising in heart health as well as in the private sector focussing on work place health and sports nutrition. She joined the BHF in 2010 as a Heart Health Dietitian and now works across the organisation advising teams on the nutritional aspects of their work. She works closely with the resources team developing the range of nutritional resources the BHF offers in print, digitally and online. She writes for both print and other media and acts as a spokesperson on all aspects of food and cardiovascular disease.