30 minutes with...Melissa Simpson
Where do you currently work and how long have you been working there?
I made the career change from the commercial sector to build a career in the for-purpose world more than 10 years ago and am absolutely here to stay. Prior to coming to Epilepsy Queensland, I have worked for various not-for-profit health organisations including HeartKids, White Cloud Foundation, and Lymphoma Australia.
Where else have you worked in your life?
As I have a passion for improving health literacy and health outcomes, particularly in vulnerable populations, I also hold advisory and governance positions with Children’s Health Queensland and Queensland Health. I have had the privilege to be involved in some rewarding projects such as launching a new online portal for families and children to access their medical information.
What is your personal connection to epilepsy?
My son, who is now 12, was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 18 months old. His first seizure was Christmas morning and I was terrified. I did not recognise it as epilepsy at the time. Last year, surprisingly my dad, who is in his seventies was diagnosed with epilepsy after suffering a stroke. Watching him lose his independence when he was unable to drive was challenging for all our family.
What do you love about your job/working in the profit-for-purpose space?
Working for an organisation that exists solely to improve people’s lives, often when they are at their most vulnerable, is both motivating and humbling. Each day I know that what I do will have a flow-on effect. My role in fundraising and partnerships allows me to be imaginative in the way that we work with supporters to not only raise funds but also awareness. There are occasions when I get to witness incredible generosity, sometimes following tragedy, which always renews my faith in human beings!
How do you think Epilepsy Queensland can have the biggest impact for people living with epilepsy?
With 280 Australians being diagnosed each week, our capacity to be there for those people, in the first overwhelming days and weeks is incredibly important. Ensuring they can access the help they need to live well with epilepsy is life-changing. When you learn that 1 in 10 people will have a seizure in their lifetime, it becomes apparent that building a society, be that schools, employers, or that wider community, that is aware of epilepsy and seizure first aid could be lifesaving!
What are your top priorities/aims in your new role?
The big picture is to generate income that not only meets our current needs but allows Epilepsy Queensland to expand our services, as a team we all want to help as many people in as many ways as possible. Building mutually beneficial partnerships with other organisations that share our values and can help us reach financial and marketing goals is a priority.
What do you feel would greatly improve epilepsy care currently in Queensland?
From an Epilepsy Queensland perspective, I think helping people address the psychosocial impacts of epilepsy is incredibly important work. I do not think the general public realises that managing epilepsy is more than managing a seizure. The side effects that medication can have on personality and energy or the impact on a person’s independence if restricted from driving can be life-changing and not something a person should have to do alone.
Where would you most like to travel?
I have been very lucky to visit over 40 countries which is fortunate, as for the short-term I think my travels will be limited to Australia! I would love to spend more time exploring Perth and a long weekend in Sydney or Melbourne is always fun.
What is your favourite food?
Mexican is a popular choice in our household if I am cooking, but I cannot go past a lamb dish on a menu if I am out at a restaurant.
Describe your most embarrassing moment?
I honestly cannot think of just one. My kids are always doing things to embarrass me, although now they are teens they seem to think that my mere existence is the most embarrassing thing ever!
What is your favourite book/author?
I go through phases, I do not think I could pick just one. Jodi Picoult and Harlan Coben are always a safe bet for a good read. The Diary of Anne Frank I read when I was about 12 years old and I still find it incredible.
Who is the most famous or infamous person you have ever met? Or who would you like to meet?
In my job, I have met a few celebrities but the most famous would have to be Princess Diana. I had a cup of tea with her when I lived in London and it was incredible.
What genres of music do you like listening to/favourite song?
I am a pop music tragic from way back!
Do you have any interesting hobbies you would like to tell us about?
Probably nothing unusual, I enjoy interior design and horse riding and I should probably classify shopping as a hobby too!