Meet the Team

The AHSN NENC team is made up of an Executive, a Core Team who provide central support, and Programme Managers who lead on our Health Improvement and Patient Safety Programmes.

Find out more about the members of our team below.

Nicola ensures the smooth running of the AHSN NENC on a day-to-day basis. Since gaining a PhD in Chemistry from Durham University, Nicola has worked in a variety of roles supporting business and industry in the North East. She worked as a Programme Manager and then Head of NHS Innovations North before taking up the position as Innovation Director at the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria in 2013. Nicola is Chief Executive Officer at the AHSN NENC. The team say – Nicola’s forte is communication, she can read people in an instant and is…

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Maria is a clinical pharmacist and prescriber by training and has subsequently held a range of senior executive roles, regionally, nationally and internationally, spanning medical and regulatory affairs, quality management, strategic marketing, operations and general management. In her career to date she has worked for several organisations including Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, UDG Healthcare, Abbott, and the Mater Private Healthcare Group. In May 2019 Maria joined the AHSN NENC as a Programme Director, and became designated National Programme Lead for PCSK9 inhibitors, one of NHSE/NHSI’s Accelerated Access Collaborative’s (AAC) rapid uptake products (RUP). In 2020 she was appointed as…

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In 2017 Julia filled the large shoes of Professor Oliver James who previously occupied this position in the AHSN NENC. Julia graduated from Newcastle University Medical School in 1990. Since then she has worked in a range of roles in the North East of England. She became a Consultant Physician with an interest in Geriatric Medicine in 2000 and Professor of Ageing and Medicine at Newcastle University in 2008. She was Dean of Clinical Medicine in the Faculty of Medical Sciences until 2015 and more recently Director of Newcastle Academic Health Partners. She has a PhD in physiological sciences from…

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Russ is the Commercial Director at the AHSN NENC and oversees the Economic Growth team.  Previously, Russ was Assistant Director of Business Innovation at The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust where he led on innovation and new business.  Russ has held a variety of roles in the healthcare sector throughout the North East.

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Stephanie has been part of the Finance team at the AHSN NENC since early 2014. Stephanie began her career as an NHS Regional Finance Trainee in 1992 in the South Thames Region before working as a Management Accountant for East Surrey Health Authority. Stephanie left the NHS in 1998 to gain wider industry experience and worked for UBS, GE and Dyson, she returned to the NHS in 2007 to take up a role first as a Project Accountant then as Directorate Accountant with The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The team say – ‘Yes we need it, yes…

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Dave qualified as a Registered Mental Health Nurse (RMN) in 1990 and went on to hold a variety of clinical roles and management positions within the Northumberland locality, going on to operationally manage primary care focused community teams, as well as Crisis and Home Treatment teams and Deliberate Self Harm teams. Dave moved on to work in project management in the Durham locality, establishing Access, Booking and Choice pilots and also a new Crisis Team, before a regional service improvement role at the Northern Centre for Mental Health and then establishing a service improvement team for the National Institute for…

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Joe joins the AHSN NENC team as the national AAC / AHSN Lipid Management and FH Programme Manager, an important area of work, both regionally and nationally. Joe will work with Professor Julia Newton and Maria Roche to deliver the national AAC / AHSN Lipid Management/FH programme, which also merges the previous independently delivered programme of work to support the Rapid Uptake Product (RUP) PCSK9i, which the AHSN NENC also lead on nationally. Joe has a clinical background as a RGN by profession, with specialist cardiothoracic experience. In his career to date, he has worked in several organisations including Primary…

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Mark worked in commercial IT before joining a health informatics research unit within Newcastle University in 1996. In 2004 he joined the NHS and had various programme related roles including with County Durham and Tees Valley Strategic Health Authority and County Durham and Darlington PCT, mainly involving use of information systems in service improvement initiatives and collaborative working between healthcare providers. Mark continued similar work with his own business from 2011 during which time he was appointed Director of Operations for the Connected Health Cities programme (NENC region), having led on the original proposal for the AHSN, before joining in…

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Joanne is responsible for HR at the AHSN NENC on a day-to-day basis. Since gaining an MA in Human Resource Management and Development at Northumbria University she has worked in HR generalist roles across the North East in various sectors, including education and healthcare. Joanne is commercially focussed and adopts a business partnering approach to her work. She has been the HR Manager at AHSN since joining the organisation in September 2019.

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As part of the CVD Programme team, Nikki is the regional co-ordinator for NENC trusts involved in the Pathway Transformation Funding (PTF) High Intensity Statin (HIS) and PCSK9 inhibitors programme. Nikki joined the AHSN in July 2016 as project lead for AF detection on the national AF programme for NENC. She has presented the multi award-winning work regionally and nationally at events such as Heart Rhythm Conference, NHS Expo, etc. and has provided expert commentary on the NICE Medtech Innovation Briefing for the mobile ECG device, AliveCor. As well as AF detection, Nikki also worked alongside the Digital Health Lead…

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Kirstie has held a variety of marketing and communications roles with a variety of companies and organisations including the NIHR Clinical Research Network, Northern England Clinical Networks and NHS Innovations North. She provides strategic leadership at the AHSN NENC to ensure effective engagement with members and stakeholders and achieve the regional and national communications objectives of the Network.

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Working within the Communications team at AHSN NENC Sarah’s focus is on event management. Sarah manages the whole process from the planning stage, right through to running the actual day itself and ensures our events run smoothly and professionally. Sarah also manages the Bright Ideas in Health Awards, a competition to celebrate the achievements of individuals and teams working within the NHS, industry and academia, who believe that the services provided to patients can be improved, either through a technical innovation or through better service delivery. The Awards are now celebrating their fifteenth year and are the largest healthcare event…

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Victoria Strassheim is a Clinical Academic physiotherapist, with over 25 years wide ranging clinical experience and a master’s in clinical research. She also works in a multi-disciplinary fatigue clinic for patients with long term health conditions. Victoria has worked in the AHSN NENC since 2018, initially working as the regional clinical lead on the ESCAPE pain programme. In 2020, Victoria began the management of the spinal pathway work, to facilitate the equitable provision of complete end to end pathway for lower back and radicular pain across the region.

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Catherine is the Deputy National Programme Manager for the National AAC AHSN FH and Lipids Programme. She leads on the Child Parent Screening Programme which is being rolled out across 7 AHSNs over the next 2 years and for which AHSN NENC are the national lead. Catherine works closely with Julia Newton and Joe Chidanyika to support delivery of the national AAC AHSN FH and Lipids programme which also merges the previous independently delivered programme of work to support the RUP PCSK9i which the AHSN NENC also lead nationally on. Catherine joins the AHSN NENC following a secondment from a…

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Karen joined the AHSN in late September 2020 and works for the Patient Safety Collaborative as a Programme Manager for Managing Deterioration. Initially, her focus was on supporting systems to set up COVID Oximetry @ home and COVID Virtual Ward models in response to the pandemic. Her current priorities include two additional workstreams – managing deterioration in non-hospital settings and the identification of deterioration in children.  The key ambition of the Managing Deterioration programme is to reduce deterioration associated harm by improving the prevention, identification, escalation and response to physical deterioration.  This involves working with key partners and stakeholders to…

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