Sunderland University tribute after coronavirus-related death of former student

Sunderland University has paid tribute to one of its most inspirational former students who has died of coronavirus-related complications.

Wednesday, 1st April 2020, 9:11 pm
Professor Gita Ramjee

South African HIV scientist Professor Gita Ramjee, who dedicated her life to the field of HIV prevention, sadly died in hospital near Durban on Tuesday, March 31.

She had been working as the Chief Scientific Officer at the Aurum Institute, a leading authority in the fight against HIV and tuberculosis. For many years, she had been Director of the HIV Prevention Trials Unit of the South African Medical Research Council, helping it to gain an international reputation.

Graduating in 1980 with degree in Combined Studies (Chemistry and Physiology), she remained a loyal supporter of the university.

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“I loved my time in Sunderland. I lived in Wearmouth Hall, and we mixed with students from all disciplines which I think was a big plus,” she said.

“We worked hard but had a lot of fun too especially in the first two years – and I met my husband.

“After graduation I married and went to live in South Africa. It was 1980, and Apartheid was still in force, so it came as a big shock given the life I had just left as a student in Sunderland.”

Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell KCB expressed his sadness on behalf of the University and sent his condolences to Professor Ramjee’s family: “Gita Ramjee was a brilliant scientist who made an outstanding contribution to humanity through her work in alleviating disease and suffering,” he said.

“We were extremely proud of all that she achieved and we mourn her loss very much. Our deepest sympathies go to her family at this very sad time”.

Professor Ramjee fell ill after returning to South Africa in mid-March from the UK, where she had been presenting at a symposium at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), an institution in which she held an honorary professorship.

South Africa’s Deputy President David Mabuza said in a statement: “The passing of Professor Ramjee comes as a huge blow to the entirety of the healthcare sector and the global fight against HIV/Aids.”

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