Meet Sue Turner, Chair of the Board of Trustees

In September 2021, Sue Turner joined the FCI as Chair of the Board of Trustees. Here, she outlines her passion for technology, the power of education and the importance of supporting disadvantaged people to fulfil their potential.

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Can you please begin by outlining your professional background and career to date?

I studied law at University of Bristol and had a dream of becoming a Barrister. As I was the first in my family ever to go to university I had no role models to guide me and, with no financial support, it was impossible for me to contemplate having two years post-degree with no income to complete the training. This taught me valuable lessons about the importance of supporting disadvantaged people to fulfil their potential.

My career to date has been 50% with dynamic, entrepreneurial businesses and 50% in the not-for-profit sector. I cross fertilize the best from each sector, supporting businesses to live more meaningful values and not-for-profits to use the tools that make many commercial businesses so successful.

The theme running through my career has been shifting power to people, places and organisations struggling for resources and opportunities. I spent 10 years with the CBI (the business membership organisation) where we sought to influence business practices and government policy. 

For five years I was Director of Communications for The Bristol Port Company (the UK’s most centrally located deep sea port) where, amongst other responsibilities I led the corporate social responsibility activities. I created a new strategy to direct support to the communities closest to the docks helping, for example, to support the local community centre. They had surveyed the local population and found that 50% of adults had never used a computer so we supported their programme to provide hands-on training.   

I left the Port to become Chief Executive Officer of Quartet Community Foundation, one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the UK.  My mission there was to refocus the Foundation to be “of and for” the communities we served. This laser-like focus, together with investing in understanding our impact and communicating highly effectively, proved very attractive to individuals, families and businesses as they saw how they could achieve real change through their philanthropy. Over five years we more than doubled the charity’s permanent endowment to over £50 million and increased annual grant-making to over £5 million, supporting disadvantaged communities across the West of England.  

I now run a purpose-driven consultancy which advises businesses and policy makers on pragmatic AI, data ethics and governance issues and making a positive societal impact. I am also a Non Executive Director for a mutual financial services business.    

How did you first become interested in artificial intelligence?

I had a Sinclair ZX Spectrum when I was a teenager and I’ve always been interested in technology and computers.  At the Foundation I was frustrated that we had vast amounts of unstructured text data collected every year in feedback reports from grantees but no way to analyse it quickly and effectively.  I asked people in businesses and universities to help me understand how artificial intelligence (AI) could analyse it for us with the aim of AI forming the basic annual impact assessment for us. I couldn’t find anyone, however, who could tell me how to do this.

In 2020 I learned that the Government was backing the creation of conversion courses to bring diverse talent into the AI world so I applied and took a year to study MSc Artificial Intelligence and Data Science with the University of Hull. There were just 32 of us in the first cohort that graduated last October; I have just been back to Hull to lecture to this year’s students and there are over 200, with even more expected next year, so the interest in this fascinating area is huge and accelerating.

Why were you interested in taking on the role of Chair of the Board of Trustees at the FCI?

This sounds like a “humble brag” but that’s not what I’m intending! When I was awarded the OBE in June 2021 for Services to Social Justice I was stunned.  The recognition came out of the blue; like so many people I had quietly got on with “doing the right thing” so it’s a shock when you realise that someone has noticed. At the same time I felt that I had not yet done enough to justify the Honour and it made me very conscious that I needed to use the tremendous gift I had gained through the Masters degree to help others.  

When I saw the advertisement for the FCI role it immediately resonated with me as the mission to support and grow the clinical informatics profession has such far reaching impact on society. My knowledge of what it takes to run a successful charitable organisation, passion for the power of membership organisations and understanding of the potential of AI all come together in this role.

How have you found the role so far?

It’s been a privilege to get to know so many people who have been so dedicated to creating the Faculty. What I love about membership organisations is that 2+2 = 5!  Everyone contributes their time and talent and the output is so much more than any one of us could do alone.

We have a long way to go to have the fully fledged education, professionalism and membership services that we all envision but we’re on the right track and moving fast. We are currently recruiting our first Chief Executive and they will be the driving force to achieving our aims.

What have you enjoyed the most so far?

I’ve greatly enjoyed meeting people online and at the strategy day in November. Hearing people’s stories about how they started in the informatics world and how they are continuing to grow their skills is inspiring. I hope we will be able to have many more in person meetings over the coming year too.

What is your vision for the Faculty?

I see us as a vibrant organisation, continually learning and evolving to make the best of the technology around us, and always with a strong focus on benefitting the people we serve in health and social care.