Meet Our Team

Get to know the talented individuals driving our mission.

Carl Beech

Carl Beech


Carl Beech is married to Karen and has two adult daughters and one granddaughter. After several years in London as a salesman for a bank, he left to devote his energies to the charity sector which he has stayed in for the last 27 years. He has extensive experience as a senior leader, board chair, CEO and charity founder. He speaks regularly at various conferences and festivals and also writes, podcasts and broadcasts about faith and community transformation. His particular focus in recent years has been tackling acute deprivation.

Carl was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s earlier in 2023. He enjoys sporting challenges and has run the London, Snowdonia and Chesterfield Marathons, cycled from Lands End to John O’Groats, Calais to Nice, the length of Italy, from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea and Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. He is determined to run another marathon in the face of YOPD. He is also an obsessive gardener and has a thing for bonsai trees!

Nikki Cole​

Nikki Cole


Nikki Cole is both an Alumni of Brunel University and also spent 8 years as an independent member of Council from 2008 to 2016, including 4 years as Chairman of the Audit Committee. Nikki started her career as an engineer undertaking a sandwich degree at Brunel whilst working for an Avionics company. Whilst Engineering remains her first love she also found Organisation Behaviour interesting. The latter part of her career involved applying an engineering approach to making structural and cultural changes to organisations across many Industry sectors.

Dr Sally Smith​

Dr Sally Smith

Deputy Chair/Trustee

Sally joined Spotlight YOPD in Spring 2020 and is Deputy Chair for the charity. Sally is a registered nurse. Having trained in London she worked clinically for 21 years in critical care before moving into senior management, including four years as a Chief Nurse.  Sally has retired from fulltime nursing after over 40 years in the profession and concentrates on following her favourite football team and cycling. Sally is delighted to be part of this valuable organisation to make a difference.

Matt Eagles​

Matt Eagles


Positivity Activist. Proud recipient of the BNA’s Public Engagement of Neuroscience Award 2020, Co-Founder and Frontman of Parkylife Finalist at the National Diversity Awards 2020 – Positive Role Model (Disability).

Andrew Hobbs​ at end of a running race

Andrew Hobbs


Graduated in 1986 with a BSc Joint Honours Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science, I spent the following 32 years working in the IT Industry.

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2014, it soon became apparent that work was not providing much emotional satisfaction, and so in 2018 I left the corporate world to concentrate on my charitable endeavours. I am a strong believer in complementary therapies, so exercise and diet are crucially important to me as I work hard to keep the PD at bay. I have every faith that given sufficient motivation, the scientific community will find the solutions to the incredibly complex puzzle that is Parkinson’s disease, and am most excited by developments in neurotrophic factors and stem cells in particular.

Joy Milne​

Joy Milne


Nurse/Lecturer until retired after husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I have Hereditary Hypersomnia and synaesthesia, which add colour and sounds.  With these gifts, I discovered that people with Parkinson’s have a unique smell. So, the question at a Parkinson’s UK lecture was, “Why do we not use the smell of Parkinson’s to diagnose it earlier.”  A proof-of-concept study at the MRCP in Edinburgh produced surprising results as I pre-diagnosed one of the control group. This led to a research study at Manchester University to find an early biomarker for Parkinson’s disease.

The discovery of a biomarker for Parkinson’s disease with the Barran Group at Manchester University has been a pleasure with all of the ups and downs that such a project gives those involved, I treasure their friendship, and the investigation into sebum has surprised us all!

Emma Edwards​

Emma Edwards


Emma has been working as a nurse since 1993, and qualified as a registered mental health nurse in 1997. She worked in many different fields of psychiatry before becoming a community Parkinson’s Specialist nurse in north and East Cornwall in 2010. Emma now works for Livewell Southwest as a Parkinsons specialist nurse covering Plymouth and West Devon. She has a special interest in mental health and Parkinson’s, especially Suicide prevention. She has lectured on this nationally, and is currently undertaking research into this area via her Chief Nurse Research Fellowship. Emma is also a member of the Royal College of Nursing Neuroscience Nurse Committee.

Gavin Jones

Gavin Jones


Gavin is an expert in healthcare communications, having worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over 25 years. He has a particular interest and passion for working in rare diseases and with underserved patient communities. He brings a broad understanding of treatment development, access and patient and healthcare professional education to deliver positive outcomes for all stakeholders.  In his spare time he enjoys practicing cooking and mindfulness.

Mark Webb​

Mark Webb


Mark Webb has been a trustee with Spotlight YOPD since June 2020. He is a qualified accountant and holds a Master’s Degree in Charity Finance from Bayes Business School (formerly Cass) at the City of London University. He has held senior financial management positions with several major charities as well as being a long term trustee with a North London SEN charity. As well as overseeing the finance Mark has a good working knowledge of Systems and Fundraising. As he has retired from full time work he concentrates on Guitar lessons and growing vegetables.

Shazia Dar​

Shazia Dar


Shazia is Trustee at Spotlight YOPD as well as supporting the researcher development of postdocs and PhD students at The University of Manchester. Her day job has a focus on communications and event organisation.

Shazia was a young carer for her Mum who had YOPD for 16 years until her untimely death in 2021. She became a trustee in order to continue to support those with YOPD in a different way following her mother’s death.

Outside of work, Shazia is a keen cook and baker as well as enjoying walks, weight training and watching football.

Beth Lee​

Beth Lee


Beth is a Trustee at SpotlightYOPD. She is also a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner and is currently completing her training to become a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist. Beth has trained in adapting therapy for those with long term conditions and aims to develop materials to make therapy more accessible for sufferers of long term conditions, such as YOPD.

Brad Standen

Brad Standen


Brad is a Trustee for SpotlightYOPD as well as being a PhD Student, Technician and Researcher for the Division of Psychology at Nottingham Trent University. His area of work focuses on experimental design using Unity, with current work focussing on developing Virtual Reality Exposure Therapies (VRET). His PhD focuses on a psychometric, neurological, and behavioural examination of Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory. His main role in SpotlightYOPD is to help increase our digital presence.

Debbie Vernon​

Debbie Vernon

Charity Secretary

Debbie is an experienced Governance Professional having provided company secretarial and governance support to charities, membership organisations, benevolent funds, and income driven subsidiaries since 2005. Her work has been in the Health & Safety sector but more latterly in Construction and Accounting.

Debbie also works with charities in a volunteering capacity, offering her support behind the scenes and in a hands-on capacity to make a difference. One close to her heart is a local charity that rehabilitates sick and injured horses. This is both a source of  enjoyment and enrichment and an opportunity to be very much hands on.

Debbie is enthusiastic about working with Spotlight YOPD and supporting the Board and Chief Executive to deliver the Patients Charter for all those affected by Young Onset Parkinson’s.

Gaynor Edwards​

Gaynor Edwards


Gaynor is the founder of Spotlight YOPD and played a crucial role as CEO until stepping into her role as patron in 2023. She founded the charity in January 2016, just a little over three years after her own diagnosis at the age of 42. Gaynor is also the Co-Chair of YOPD Leadership Group at the World Parkinson’s Congress.

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