Hilary Evans is Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK). Under her leadership, ARUK has been established as the UK’s leading dementia research charity and Hilary was involved in setting up one of their biggest research initiatives - the Drug Discovery Alliance. Prior to this, Hilary led the campaigning work at Age UK, improving the lives of people in later life both in the UK and internationally.
Please tell us about some of the work you have done to support, improve and contribute to the lives of, people with dementias?
In my time at Alzheimer’s Research UK it has been important to me to ensure we battle dementia on two fronts – raising awareness among the public, and powering research in the lab. Thanks to our supporters, we’ve been able to make enormous strides in both of these areas with hard hitting awareness campaigns and transformative increases in investment for research.
What was your motivation for getting involved in the field of dementia?
While, like many people, I have personal experience of dementia, before coming to Alzheimer’s Research UK I had also spent 10 years working on issues that affect older people. Dementia really stands out as something with an enormous impact but a desperate lack of effective treatments, and research offers hope for changing this.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement or highlight?
It’s been fantastic to be part of the team that has led to the transformation of Alzheimer’s Research UK, establishing us as the UK’s leading dementia research charity. I’m particularly proud to have been involved in setting up our big research initiatives like our Drug Discovery Alliance, knowing that these are making vital contributions to developing future treatments.
There is still a lot of work to do, both in terms of awareness and research funding. Misconceptions about dementia are still rife and funding for dementia research still lags far behind that of diseases like cancer and heart disease. We need to address this imbalance. The crucial challenge now is to translate the scientific discoveries researchers are making into tangible benefits for people’s lives.
If you could change one thing now to improve the lives of people living with dementia, what would it be?
There is a desperate need for better ways to help people living with dementia and this can’t happen soon enough. Alzheimer’s Research UK’s mission is to bring about a life changing dementia treatment by 2025. Powering research now will have transformative effects for people with dementia in future.
And another thing...
Dementia has a disproportionate impact on women. Nearly two thirds of people living with dementia are women and women are also far more likely to end up as carers for those with the condition than men.
It has been inspiring for me to meet so many women who are leading the fight against dementia and working tirelessly as researchers, carers or supporters for Alzheimer’s Research UK.