Our people

The strength of FORCE is in the fantastic team of people who make our charity the unique and cherished local organisation that it is today. We have a committed Board of Trustees overseeing all of our work and offering strategic guidance as we grow and move forward. New trustees are selected on the basis of the skills they have to complement the existing board.
Our trustees delegate the day to day management and administration OMT April 2015 - Copyof the charity to Chief Executive Meriel Fishwick, supported by the Operational Management Team (OMT) based at our headquarters within the FORCE Support and Information Centre. The OMT (pictured) comprises the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Finance Officer, Information Services Manager, Head of Fundraising and Volunteer Services Manager and meets at least six times a year.
Supporting them is a motivated and skilled group of professional staff who take care of the daily administration of our charity, support those in need of our many services and raise funds to ensure we can keep doing all the things we do.
Underpinning all of this is the work of an army of dedicated volunteers who give us their time and talents so willingly and our many, many supporters in the local community.
Together we make a formidable force.

Our co-founders

Dr Chris Rowland MBE

July 14th 1945 – March 24th 2014
Chris - Copy
Chris cared deeply about his patients as individuals and strove to tailor their cancer treatments to meet those individual needs. After co-founding FORCE in 1987, through the charity, he implemented the HOPE (Home Oncology Programme, Exeter) ambulatory chemotherapy treatment at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, the first in the UK to pioneer such an approach. This enabled patients to receive treatment at home rather than in hospital while continuing with normal activities of daily living, giving them a greater sense of control over their own lives. At the same time, he investigated the scientific basis for this method of treatment, conducting research into which chemotherapy drugs could be given in this way and how the body dealt with them, to establish the best treatment for that patient. Home infusional chemotherapy has since been developed further and is now readily available across the UK and the world. Chris continued to strive to introduce innovative treatments to improve care for his patients, never afraid to challenge convention, careful to gather evidence through systematic, meticulous research to support novel interventions, creating a research ethos, working closely with colleagues. Also in 1987, with support through FORCE, he brought individualised radiotherapy in the form of high dose-rate Selectron treatment to Exeter. He and his team undertook pivotal work with this treatment machine, making Exeter the first centre in the world to develop its use in a wide range of cancers. As a result of this work, such radiotherapy treatment equipment is now standard nationally and internationally. Both of these examples illustrate the principles Chris followed in his many years as Consultant Oncologist and FORCE’s champion, which became and remain the mission statement of FORCE – to support the lives of cancer patients and their carers, help maintain self-respect, dignity and be part of their plan of care. He always sought to improve existing care, had the ability to think about doing things differently, the courage to bring change, a commitment to encourage research and innovation – the patient being at the centre of his endeavours. He was much loved by his patients and their families, respected by colleagues, co-workers, students and researchers whose careers developed through work supported by FORCE and he attracted a deeply-felt, abiding loyalty. FORCE, Chris’s inspiration, has grown beyond imagination. In a way that could not have been envisaged at its outset, so many lives have been helped, lifted and touched, beyond words, beyond measure. Chris was humorous, irreverent, perceptive, incisive, caring, committed, courageous, vulnerable, loyal – the list is endless. He made a difference to so many, left his indelible mark here in Exeter and in many lives. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude. Indeed, his legacy lives on through the work of FORCE and Exeter Oncology Centre.

Commander Bernard Simons

Bernard - CopyBernard saw active service in the Malayan Emergency and also worked in the Middle East, building an international port in the Gulf of Bahrain. After winning an eight month battle with throat cancer that left him unable to speak for a time, he was so grateful for what the doctors had done for him that he wanted to give something back. As well as undertaking a fundraising campaign that brought in more than £200,000, he joined Dr Chris Rowland in founding a pioneering cancer research centre – the Friends of the Oncology and Radiotherapy Centre Exeter or FORCE. He ran the centre, at the time one of only three in the world dedicated to improving the quality of life for cancer sufferers. Bernard combined his role as the charity’s co-ordinator and office supremo with a counselling role, drawing on his own experiences to help support patients. His philosophy was to care sometimes, relieve often, comfort always.




Our patron


Dr Martin Cooper MS FRCS

Martin Cooper

Martin is former Medical Director at the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. He qualified from the Royal Free Hospital Medical School and undertook his surgical training in London, Bristol and Plymouth. He then spent a period of 18 months undertaking research into pancreatic and biliary disease at the University of Chicago. Returning to the UK, Martin was appointed a Lecturer (senior registrar) at the University of Bristol and was promoted to Senior Lecturer (honorary consultant) in 1984. In 1988 he was appointed to the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital as a Consultant General Surgeon with an interest in Upper GI and Breast disease. Having built up these services, he saw them grow into needing three and four consultants respectively as he stepped down from clinical work. Martin was appointed Clinical Director of Surgery in 1992 and in 1995, led the successful process of Cancer Centre registration. He subsequently served as Clinical Director of Cancer Services until 2009. Regionally, he was the Medical Director of the Peninsula Cancer Network from 2000 to 2007. Martin was then Joint Medical Director from 2009 until May 2013. He was re-appointed as the full time Medical Director in September 2013 and retired in 2015.

Read more about Martin Cooper

Our chairman

Dr Anne Hong

Anne was a consultant oncologist at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, the South West ANNE HONG - Copy (150x150)peninsula’s leading contributor in cancer clinical trials. She was lead clinician for oncology research – a unit that participates in a wide range of national clinical trials, expanded research programmes and some commercial studies. Anne became a FORCE trustee in 1992 and the charity’s chairman in 1997. She was born in Sheffield, one of seven children. Her grandfather came to England in the 1940s and set up a laundry business, which in turn led Anne’s parents to emigrate to join him and to help run it. Attributing much of her own success in medicine to the 11 plus examination and subsequent grammar school education, Anne describes this period of her life as ‘the beginning of hope and aspiration.’ She always knew that she wanted to be in a caring, vocational profession and medicine was her highest aspiration. Her training involved gaining experience in a wide range of medical arenas but it was in the field of Oncology that she felt really comfortable and believed she had found her true calling. Anne says she was blessed with having some extraordinary mentors. Her move to Devon was prompted by an inspirational speech given by Dr Chris Rowland, co-founder and former patron of FORCE. Anne’s involvement with our charity was a natural progression and she considers her association a humbling experience and a huge privilege to have been able to witness the charity’s growth and development over the years. Anne loves living in Devon and enjoys walking and keeping fit, which she finds very therapeutic. Her other interests include opera, classical music and art.

Our trustees

ANNE HONG - Copy (150x150)
RUTH BOOBIER (150x150)
Dr Anne Hong – Chairman
Mr Felix Medland
– Vice Chairman
Mrs Ruth Boobier
DAVID CANTLE (150x150)
JOAN COOPER (150x150)
Dr Kidner
Mr David Cantle
Mrs Joan Cooper
 Dr Sally Kidner
MORELY SAGE (150x150)
Mr John Renninson
Mr Morley Sage
Mr Jeremy Roberts
Dr Jenny Forrest
Mr Nigel Acheson

Our management team

Meriel Fishwick – Chief Executive Officer

Meriel started her working life in local newspapers and pForce41 - Copyublic relations. It was a chance meeting with FORCE founders Dr Chris Rowland and Bernard Simons that led to her employment with the Charity in 1990. From its early days as a research focussed Charity, FORCE has been shaped by the changing needs of people affected by cancer. Over the last two decades Meriel’s role has also evolved from PR and Fundraising Manager to Support Centre Manager and latterly Chief Executive. Meriel is passionate about the Charity and believes it is a local treasure – created and funded by local people for local people. In an increasingly global and sometimes faceless world, FORCE is reassuringly all about people and offering help and support – face to face. Beyond work Meriel is kept fully occupied by family life! She is married to Simon and they have a son, Harry, and two Labradors called Fudge and Tess. Meriel loves all aspects of outdoor life especially walking on Dartmoor.

Julia Pitts – Chief Finance Officer

Julia is a chartered accountant and she joined FORCE in 2006 as the sole member of the Finance Team. In addition to her responsibility for the charity’s finances, she is the Company Secretary and is involved with the shop, governance and administration as well as taking a keen interest in the Support Centre’s garden. Julia’s role has evolved as the activities of the charity have expanded and she now heads up a team of four within the Finance Department and gained her Diploma in Charity Accounting in 2015.  Outside of work Julia is kept busy with her two teenage children, various pets and her own garden!

Sarah Daniels – Head of Fundraising

DSCF3586 - CopySarah joined the FORCE team in June 2008 full of ideas and enthusiasm – nothing has changed since then and she can still be found creating new fundraising events. With many years of professional fundraising experience Sarah still maintains the motto ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.’ So many people who come to FORCE support us with events and donations and the charity is extremely grateful for every penny we receive. Sarah met Mark, one of our event participants, in 2009 and they married in 2011. Sarah’s role also includes managing the fundraising team and staff in our charity shop. Outside of work Sarah enjoys walking, jogging, cycling and skiing.

Annie Kerr – Information Manager

Annie joined the FDSCF3730 - CopyORCE team in February 2014 after having worked in the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital as an experienced cancer nurse in the breast care unit. She took over as Information Manager in April 2015. Annie’s hospital experience is invaluable in helping FORCE visitors gain a better understanding of their treatment plans and the many resources available to them through FORCE. Her husband also works within the hospital and they have two teenage girls.


Naomi Snook – Volunteer Manager

2FORCE23 - CopyNaomi joined the FORCE team in June 2004 to set up the volunteer service for the then new Support and Information Centre. Her main role is to support and co-ordinate our team of volunteers and ensure that they provide a service appropriate to the needs of FORCE users.  Naomi previously worked in the hospital trust for 10 years as a clinical coder alongside co-ordinating volunteers for a children’s charity for 14 years. Naomi is married with a “blended” family of four children and seven grandchildren. She loves the sun, red wine and admits to being a devoted Donny Osmond fan. In her spare time she co-ordinates Street Pastors in the Newton Abbot area.