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Tributes paid to inspirational DMU lecturer who continued teaching while fighting cancer

A passionate and inspirational lecturer from Leicester who taught students about breast cancer genetics while battling the condition herself, has been recognised with an honourable award created in her name.

Dr Jane Sherwood, who was just 50 when she died in May, had taught Biomedical Science at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) since 1995. During that time, she lectured thousands of students – many of whom went on to become scientists, researchers and teachers themselves.

JANE SHERWOOD - graduations

Jane Sherwood (right) celebrating with graduates at a previous ceremony

In fact, when Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer due to a rare genetic mutation in March 2018, a number of the scientists who processed her results at the Leicester Royal Infirmary were her former students.

Despite fighting her own battle with the disease, Jane bravely continued teaching lectures on breast cancer genetics so that her students were prepared for their exams, and even attended their summer graduations while undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

Now, to honour Jane’s courage and commitment to her work, the Biomedical Science team at DMU have created an award in her name to be handed out for the first time at this year’s summer graduations – the ‘Dr Jane Sherwood Prize for Outstanding Dedication in Biomedical Science’.

The accolade is for students who have overcome difficult barriers during their time at DMU and shown dedication to their studies in Biomedical Science. Unlike other graduation prizes, students can put themselves forward or nominate a friend.


Jane taught cello and played in the DMU String Orchestra

The first recipient of the 2019 award was Gabriella Otim-Oyet, who graduated with a 2:1 in Biomedical Science on Monday 15 July.

Gabriella, who was taught by Jane, faced an extremely difficult time in her final year of study, after her mum Sally died suddenly last October.

“It was really hard to carry on with my university work when mum died but Dr Sherwood’s courage was one of the things that inspired me to keep going,” said Gabriella, 21. “I learnt a lot from her positive attitude to life, so it’s really nice to be recognised with this award in memory of her.

Gabriella Otim-Oyet

Gabriella won the Dr Jane Sherwood Prize for Outstanding Dedication in Biomedical Science

“It was so inspiring how optimistic Dr Sherwood was, considering what she was going through – she even taught us about cancer which must have been so hard for her, but all we ever saw was an incredibly positive and funny lecturer who was passionate about science.”

Dr Jo Rushworth, a senior lecturer in Biochemistry at DMU and close friend of Jane, said: “Jane was a phenomenal teacher. Her students were always her main priority; she put her heart and soul into giving them the very best academic and pastoral care.

“One of her exceptional and very rare talents was seeing unique potential in every student, expertly nurturing and empowering each one to achieve greatness.”



Jane's passion was an inspiration to students and graduates

While science was her first love, Jane was also recognised as a leading cello teacher, after passing her exams while receiving cancer treatment. She even taught internationally and was part of DMU’s String Orchestra.

“Jane was simply the best person. She poured her heart and soul into everything she did, even when she was really poorly,” said Dr Rushworth. “This award is our way of keeping her memory alive and we hope it will inspire students for many years to come.”

Alongside her work at DMU, Jane was also a keen athlete and in January 2019, despite her deteriorating health, she launched the ‘Leicester 5K Your Way Move Against Cancer’ initiative, which encourages people affected by cancer and those working in cancer services, to walk, run, cheer or volunteer at a 5K parkrun event held at Victoria Park on the last Saturday of every month.

JANE SHERWOOD running group

Jane (centre) started the Leicester 5K Your Way Move Against Cancer initiative

In another touching tribute following her death, the event has since been renamed ‘Jane’s Run’ – a legacy her husband Chris is incredibly proud of.

“It’s so humbling to know that something Jane brought to Leicester is now named after her,” he said. “Cancer is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge and exercise is one thing that can help you tackle both. Jane’s Run is about bringing people together who understand what each other is going through.

“It’s also incredibly touching that DMU has created an award to recognise the students that show perseverance, resilience and strength of character during their studies. Jane was so determined to help her students, even when she was undergoing treatment, so it is a very fitting tribute.

“I was always in awe of Jane’s ability to connect with her students. She absolutely loved teaching at DMU and her aim was to inspire others to learn.

“I think she would be very proud if she could see the legacy she has left.”

Posted on Monday 15th July 2019

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