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Leadership Team

Dr Benjamin Franklin - DirectorBen founded Myelopathy.org together with Dr Mark Kotter in 2015, after taking an appointment at Addenbrookes University Hospital in Cambridge, as a trainee academic neurosurgeon. Ben did his medical training in Manchester, UK where his initial interest had been to become a Neurologist. However, after exposure to Neurosurgery and also clinical research late on at medical school he realised this was a better fit for his interests.

The position in Cambridge was therefore a dream opportunity. However, Ben admits that he arrived without any special knowledge of Myelopathy. It was in Cambridge that Ben met Dr Mark Kotter, who at the time was just completing his own Neurosurgical training and was looking to establish a research theme in Myelopathy, alongside his existing science laboratory and his work as a spinal surgeon. Mark opened Ben’s eyes to the many problems faced by those with Myelopathy, problems which have only become more apparent over time.

At this time the information available about myelopathy on the internet was terrible; if you typed in myelopathy, the first websites that came up were about canine myelopathy (i.e dogs). Mark and Ben therefore founded Myelopathy.org, initially just as a website, to try and reach a greater number of those affected, to provide information and also learn from their experiences. In doing so, they met Iwan Sadler, who had recently been diagnosed and treated for Myelopathy, and had established a peer-to-peer support community for those affected. It was a merger of these two ventures which established Myelopathy.org as the international charity it is today.

Ben has great ambitions for Myelopathy.org: he wants it to bring together those living with the condition and those treating the condition, to improve our understanding and care, and ultimately improve the lives of those affected. Ben says that although it continues to be a steep learning curve where they have faced a number hurdles, and a fair amount of criticism from some corners, Myelopathy.org continues to grow and campaign for change.

Ben continues to oversee the day to day operations of the charity, but he is thankful to have a number of other key individuals helping to change myelopathy for ever.

Delphine Houlton - PRDelphine feels that it is a great privilege to be able to use her skills as a PR consultant and a former journalist to help raise awareness of CSM among health professionals, offer support and information to people with the condition and most, importantly of all, encourage fund raising and innovative research to improve timely diagnosis and treatments. 

Delphine had operations for CSM in 2007/08 but had never actually managed to speak to anyone with the same condition until she discovered the Myelopathy.org website. Delphine immediately volunteered to help the new organisation. Since then she has had the privilege of communicating with people across the world through the support group as well as seeing Myelopathy.org gain formal charity registration.

During a career break when her three children were at primary school, Delphine took a degree in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex which she found fascinating. While the course started with ethnographies of peoples in distant countries, it quite rapidly moved to tackling current issues faced by people and organisations within Europe. And Delphine learned even more after graduating and becoming editor of Anthropology in Action.

Away from the laptop, Delphine can be found herding a growing flock of grandchildren and, of course, her two ducks, Bold and Shy. She also enjoys baking sourdough bread, learning Italian and Portuguese as well as knitting and crochet when the weather rules out gardening.

Iwan Sadler, Myelopathy SupportIwan is from South Wales in the UK and has four children. Iwan’s background in print and design started at the age of 16 he went to study at the Cardiff School of Printing and Design. This led to career in the newspaper industry as a printer with the Northcliffe Group.

At the age of 22 he started up his own sign and design company. After being diagnosed with cervical myelopathy in 2014 and feeling frustrated at the lack of awareness and support for people with myelopathy. Iwan used his design and computer knowledge to initiate his own online awareness campaign which he did using social media. This resulted in one of the first Facebook community pages for cervical myelopathy. On the back of the success of the community page the Myelopathy Support group quickly followed.

At around the same time Iwan was contacted by Dr Ben Davies and Dr Mark Kotter and was asked if he would share his myelopathy journey for their new website Myelopathy.org. Iwan agreed and met up with them in 2016 at their CSM day at the University of Cambridge. Given their common goals, Iwan joined Myelopathy.org in 2017 to set up and lead Myelopathy.org/support, a support community for patients by patients.

Michelle read Biological Sciences at Christ Church, Oxford graduating in 2000. She then spent a further year at Oxford gaining a Postgraduate Certificate of Education to teach science in secondary schools. Whilst she loved teaching, and still does, she missed academic science and hence moved to University College, London to study for a Masters in Neuroscience, a topic she had always been fascinated by. Her research focused on repair following injury to the peripheral nervous system.

Success at UCL led to Michelle being awarded a Nathalie Rose Barr Studentship from Spinal Research which allowed her to start a PhD at King’s College, London. Whilst at King’s her research widened to include various strategies to promote repair and recovery after injuries to the central nervous system. After her PhD Michelle decided to move to Switzerland to pursue similar research at the University of Zurich/ETH Zurich as a postdoc. Specifically, Michelle was interested in how the remaining, intact central nervous system could be used in repair and recovery following injury. During this time Michelle became an associate at the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, fulfilling a neuroscience lifetime goal. It was during this time, whilst taking full advantage of the vibrant and active neuroscience community in Switzerland, that Michelle became curious in the clinical implications of her research and moved to another postdoc position at the Spinal Cord Injury Research Laboratory at Balgrist University Hospital also in Zurich. At Balgrist Michelle ran a research team focusing on the investigation of rehabilitative training of the upper extremity using wearable sensor technology.

Due to family reasons Michelle returned to the UK in 2017 and joined the University of Cambridge as a Research Associate working with Dr Mark Kotter and Dr Ben Davies. Very soon their passion for all things Myelopathy transferred to Michelle and she is now delighted to be devoting her time and energy to Myelopathy.org and the associated research programmes that it is involved in.