Jessica Newfield

Global Skins Conference: Leadership in Allergy Research

Jessica Newfield
Global Skins Conference: Leadership in Allergy Research


Recently I was addressing the delegates at the Global Skin Conference with stories from Brave Leaders. But I realized quickly that they were all brave. Most of the participants have some sort of visible skin disease. Many of them were heading a patient organization which represents many affected persons with eczema, vitiligo, food allergies etc. I was told that people around them often don’t understand what it means to have a skin disease. I was fortunate enough to talk to many and especially with Carla Jones CEO of Allergy UK:

”To be brave and stand up for something is to take risks. A brave leader is often very lonely and needs to be independent. You have to see the whole picture and understand that an activity is affecting more things than those directly involved. It is to have a 360-degree awareness. As one-third of the population in the UK have some sort of allergy, the subsequent decisions we make in a patient organization have to consider the impact of those decisions in relation to all living with an allergic disease. My hope is that not too far away from now, allergy research will be treated as seriously as cancer research is now. Sadly allergic disease is not recognized as the serious condition that it is and often medical practitioners treat symptoms and not the underlying cause, which is often an allergic reaction. There should be more focus in healthcare education on allergy to ensure those living with allergy receive the right care and treatment.

I am a social scientist and have always had an interest in how society impacts on quality of life. My interest in allergy research and defending the rights of people that suffered from skin conditions and other allergic reactions come from a personal place as many of my own family live with allergy, including atopic eczema, and anaphylaxis where eating certain foods can be fatal. Everyone affected needs to take their own responsibility for managing their disease, however, it’s also important that they receive the right treatment and have the same chance for a positive quality of life. It is so important that the attitudes change in this domain.”

Where do you get your personal courage from?

“Working together with your team around you! I am always prepared to change my opinion and I am always prepared to apologize if I have been wrong. I think you have to believe in what you are doing – the cause has to be clear to you. I don’t think I have ever had a job without it. You have to be tenacious! You can’t teach anyone to be brave but you can inspire others by your actions.”

Recommendations to become a Brave Leader:

1. You have to accept that things don’t happen immediately and you have to work hard and find your way through the system to gain the right knowledge and experience.

2. Remember that things take time. Take small steps to achieve what you want to achieve - be tenacious!

3. Think of how you communicate. You don’t have to shout the loudest - but be informed and consider how you put your message across. Think about your communication skills and how to present your positions effectively - taking into account the 360-degree position including other points of view.

Carla Headshot.JPG

Carla joined Allergy UK in May 2015 with ten years senior executive experience leading complex services in the third and public sectors.  

Carla is leading the strategic growth of Allergy UK, the leading national charity dedicated to supporting the estimated 21 million people in the UK affected by an allergic disease. She represents Allergy UK at influential meetings both in the UK and across Europe. This includes liaison with government all-party parliamentary groups, partnership collaboration to develop clinical guidance and engagement with the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI) and British Society Immunology (BSI). Carla is a Board member of the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Alliance. This alliance of 41 allergies, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients' associations, represents 30% of European citizens currently living with these diseases and conveys their voice at a European and national level. She is also a patient committee member of the European Academy of Allergy & Clinical Immunology (EAACI) and attends various global conferences and meetings such as Global Skin and the Global Allergy and Asthma Patient Platform.

As a Social Scientist, Carla’s career and interests have focused on how society can work collaboratively to improve the quality of life of all citizens. During her career, Carla has chaired multi-partnership boards and worked closely with local communities, central government, and national and local partners across the public, private and third sector to achieve shared objectives. She has managed a specialist palliative care hospice, which involved working collaboratively with charity Trustees, clinicians, and partner health and social care organizations. Before that she held a senior position in local government leading the management of community development and social and physical regeneration in the socially deprived areas of East Kent.  Carla’s earlier academic career included research and lecturing  at Canterbury Christ Church University on topics associated with early years development, the psycho-social aspects of health and the evaluation of the impact of the government Sure Start initiatives aimed at increasing life chances for young children.