A Devon community healthcare champion and an Exeter clinical scientist who has helped to transform the lives of thousands of patients worldwide have been recognised by the Queen in her latest Birthday Honours.
Professor Sian Ellard, the RD&E’s Consultant Clinical Scientist and Professor of Genomic Medicine at the University of Exeter, receives an OBE, while Steve Hudson, the RD&E’s former Divisional Director of Community Services at the RD&E, receives an MBE.
Prof. Ellard has pioneered the use of diagnostic genetic testing in mainstream NHS clinical practice both regionally and nationally, and now leads a ground-breaking genomics programme set to transform healthcare for generations to come. She and her 50-strong team at the state-of-the-art Exeter genetics laboratory have discovered 16 of the 26 new genetic subtypes of diabetes over the past 15 years. With colleague Professor Andrew Hattersley, their biggest breakthrough was in neonatal diabetes where finding the genetic cause led patients to stop insulin injections and get better glucose control with a simple tablet treatment. Using new DNA sequencing technology she has created a new test for couples with pregnancies affected by rare lethal disorders and the first NHS-wide exome sequencing service for rare diseases.
Her leadership has helped to move genomics – once a remote field isolated from frontline clinical care – into routine clinical care resulting in many thousands of patients now being tested annually for genetic disorders and receiving more effective treatment and improved quality of life. She leads the Exeter-based South West Genomic Medicine Centre across seven NHS trusts and has a pivotal role in the national 100,000 Genomes Project, which promises to unlock the genetic secrets of many major diseases and pioneer future treatments.
An accomplished international speaker, Prof. Ellard is a passionate communicator of science to expert and non-expert audiences. Last year, she ran the Great West Run in aid of Exeter’s FORCE Cancer Charity.
On receiving her honour, Prof. Ellard said: “I am delighted and honoured to receive this OBE. I would like to pay tribute to all of my colleagues who have done such a superb job from the initial research discoveries to changing clinical practice through new genomic testing. I’ve been very privileged to work with so many fantastic patients and families over the years – they have been a major inspiration.
“Genomic research has already shown how it can change lives and has the potential to transform the way we diagnose and treat illness for future generations. It’s an enormously exciting time and I’m very proud to be part of it.”
After studying chemistry and later qualifying as a nurse, Steve Hudson worked in the NHS for more than 30 years, initially specialising in learning disabilities before later taking on a range of management posts across health and social care services in Devon. His last post before retiring this year was the RD&E’s Divisional Director of Community Services.
Steve has devoted time and energy to other local and international projects including helping to set up a not-for-profit domiciliary and home care service in Exeter and twinning the Exeter and District Health Trust with the Mengo Hospital in Kampala, Africa in the late 1990s. Currently he is Trustee of the Beacon Community Centre in Exeter.
Steve said: “I’ve been proud to work with so many fantastic teams of people over the years, both in the community and the NHS. I am deeply honoured and humbled to receive this honour.”
Suzanne Tracey, RD&E Chief Executive, said: “Sian and Steve have both made outstanding contributions to health and social care locally, nationally and internationally. Through their respective fields of expertise they have improved the lives of countless patients and their families and I am thrilled their hard work, vision and leadership have been recognised at the highest level.”
Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice Chancellor of the University of Exeter, said: “I’m so delighted for Sian on this outstanding and very well deserved recognition. She is absolutely dedicated to research that has a direct benefit to patients, and we’re all very proud that she and the wider team have made a tremendous impact in their field, improving lives worldwide.”