The end of 2020 is nigh and I am sure most of us - if not all - will be looking forward to turning the page when the 1st of January arrives.

But, having said that, there have been some good things to come out of this interesting year, so we have put together some of our highlights (in no particular order):

World Encephalitis Day 2020 

It seems so long ago, but World Encephalitis Day earlier this year was great fun as always. There were lots of highlights which we put down on another blog in case anyone wants to look back. We are also well underway with plans for World Encephalitis Day 2021 on the 22nd February.


At the very beginning of the pandemic, we launched The Encephalitis Podcast to answer your questions about COVID-19 and encephalitis. The podcast was a great success and has continued throughout the year with our CEO, Dr Ava Easton, on hosting duties. We have really enjoyed putting together the podcasts and hope you have enjoyed watching and listening to them.

One of the most fun to film was when the tables were turned on Ava and she was quizzed by our Ambassador, Simon Hattenstone.

The Encephalitis Podcast can be found on YouTube, Apple, Google Play, Spotify and Podbean

Zambia graduation

This picture was a proud day for the Encephalitis Society and shows the first ever graduates from the Neurology Training Program in Zambia and the project lead, Dr Deanna Saylor.

The six doctors are the first ever home-grown neurologists in the country and will now go on and treat patients and train other doctors in neurology - creating a legacy for generations to come.

We were among the organisations who proudly supported this training program.

Research, research, research

The COVID-19 pandemic really saw doctors, researchers and scientists come to the fore to better understand the virus and its implications. On top of their work treating patients in hospitals, they have also found the time to carry out research into coronavirus. I am sure you will agree that it has been very comforting to have so many keen minds focused on our health and wellbeing this year.

Some papers our Scientific Advisory Panel have been involved in, include:

Neurological and neuropsychiatric complications of COVID-19 in 153 patients: a UK-wide surveillance study

Standing on the shoulders of giants: 100 years of neurology and epidemic infections

Many of the authors will be familiar to you and include our CEO Dr Ava Easton and Scientific Advisory Panel members such as Dr Nicholas Davies, Dr Benedict Michael, Professor Tom Solomon, Professor Angela Vincent, Dr Thomas Pollak, Dr Rachel Kneen and Dr Mark Ellul.

12 Days of Tom

The 12 Days of Tom was a social media appeal where we highlighted the great things that Professor Tom Solomon, our President, does - be it a researcher, broadcaster, author, traveller. Tom is quite a humble chap at the end of the day and we think all the attention may have got to him. See Exhibit A below.

All jokes aside, we are very lucky to have Tom as our President. He is an extraordinary researcher, supporter, fundraiser and campaigner for the Encephalitis Society. And also game for pretty much anything as long as it supports us. Thank you, Tom.

Support the 12 Days of Tom Appeal

New Trustees

We welcomed new trustees to the Encephalitis Society board who bring with them a wealth of experience, ideas and passion. Welcome to Gagun Gahir, Donna Chen, Dr Paola Tinti and Andy Stephens.

We also have vacancies for a Treasurer and Communications, Marketing and PR expert. 

My Brain and Me

Our My Brain and Me project continued throughout 2020 (with virtual recordings) and you can see all the films on our homepage here. The feedback we get is that they are crucial in helping people who are beginning their recoveries from encephalitis.

If you are interested in sharing your story in 2021 and are aged under 25 or from an ethnic minority or LGBTQIA+ background, please get in touch with Sara.

Virtual Gatherings

The social distancing we have endured during the COVID-19 pandemic meant we had to cancel our member events in 2020. Our solution was to introduce regular virtual gatherings via the magic of Zoom. These gatherings have become a weekly ritual for our members. Friendships have been made, advice shared, and there have been laughs aplenty.

Also - check out the Encephalitis Support Forum - which has become a really nice online peer-to-peer support community.

Georgia got a new job!

I have always wanted to work with animals, especially dogs, ever since I was young. But after getting encephalitis, I never really thought I would get there.

I am delighted to say that I have now started a job as a Patient Care Assistant at a vets! It is a lot to take in all at once as it’s like they’re speaking a different language. There are so many vet words that I’ve never heard of and so many different jobs to do, but I’m hoping that I will pick it all up soon.

I am also making the most of having no sense of smell with this job as I don’t have to deal with some of the very unpleasant smells from the animals! My work mates are very jealous of this!

I am so proud of myself for getting this far and it is still sinking in, but I just need to start believing in myself more and know that even after having encephalitis, l can still do it!

Georgia Lee, member and fundraiser

Keep Calm & Carry On

For our Winter newsletter, I asked several supporters how they occupied themselves during the lockdown. We loved this one from Dr Nicholas Davies, the Chair of our Scientific Advisory Panel:

Exploring my home city, London, on foot and Boris bike. During my lockdown free time, I have seen more of London than in the last 20 years of living here. I’ve walked the Regent’s canal, done self-guided “architours” of a deserted weekend Square Mile, explored docklands and the river paths. I’ve discovered lots of hidden gems, such as stumbling upon an unexpected vista of St Paul’s cathedral or urban wildlife. And I now know Greater London so much better.

Winter newsletter

Encephalitis Conference

In early December, we held our annual Encephalitis Conference, giving health professionals a chance to share and discover the latest in encephalitis research.

This year's conference was an unqualified success - welcoming 257 health professionals from 35 countries - and a virtual event which was a first for us.

There were some nervy moments in the run-up to the conference (thank you, COVID-19) but everything was alright on the night and the feedback we have had was amazing. 

What is all the more remarkable is that around ten years ago, the conference's future was in doubt, so to see it go full circle and become the conference for encephalitis experts around the world is a source of deep satisfaction.

Game On!

We have to mention our Trustee Dave Smith who took on a 24 hour Gaming Marathon for us in November - raising £3,145. You have to love someone who gets so invested in what he does and has a great time doing it. Plus his videos are pure gold!

Encephalitis Research Month

Our second annual Encephalitis Research Month in June focused on the neurological complications of COVID-19. Members of our Scientific Advisory Panel are heavily involved in researching this particular area.

This year's campaign saw us take to the airwaves, news websites and onto social media to talk about the importance of research into encephalitis and COVID-19.

Find out more

Let's get animated

Sara Birch-Ares, our Support Services Coordinator, has been busy producing short animated videos about encephalitis alongside Faltrego Films and animator Ami Bogin.

We have also been putting a lot of time and effort into our YouTube channel as we look to build up our visual assets!


Being the Communications Coordinator at the Encephalitis Society is like herding cats. You try to get the team going in the right direction, but someone usually gets distracted (J'accuse Jon Ainley) and chaos ensues.

Take, for example, this video. We were awarded an amazing £95,000 grant from the National Lottery Community Fund and the Government to help us fund our support services during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

All we had to do was say: "Thank You."

2020 Year in Review

We put together a film about the highs and the lows of the past 12 months for the Encephalitis Society. It was first shown at the Encephalitis Conference at the start of December. A lot has happened in 2020!

Pip Pip Hooray!

Finally, impending congratulations to Phillippa Chapman, our Director of Services. Pip is now on maternity leave as she awaits the birth of her first child with hubby, Toby. 

Coming in 2021

Looking ahead to the New Year, there are a few things we would like you to keep on your radar:

World Encephalitis Day

It's almost that time of the year - and again we will be calling on your for your help. The main area we need your help is lighting up landmarks (buildings, bridges, places of work, fountains) red on the 22nd February. Can you help us?

Exceptional Service Awards

What better way to cap off a difficult year for people in the health, education and social care services than by putting them forward for an international award?

We are inviting nominations for the annual Encephalitis Society Exceptional Service Awards which is your chance to show how much an individual or an organisation has helped you.


There are a number of events coming up, including the World Encephalitis Day Conference which will be a virtual event and My Brain & Medicine at the Royal Society of Medicine, London, which we are hoping will be a hybrid event (both physical and virtual attendance), COVID-19 restrictions permitting.

Find out more about our 2021 events