Award remembers tragic student Jemma

A gifted Sunderland University student who died tragically has been honoured with the presentation of an award in her memory.

Monday, 1st August 2016, 12:30 pm
Updated Monday, 1st August 2016, 1:44 pm
Sunderland University Graduate Nathan Medcalf
Sunderland University Graduate Nathan Medcalf

Jemma O’ Sullivan, a fourth year student in the University’s Department of Pharmacy, Health and Well-being, was just 22 when she was killed in a motorway crash in 2010. Parents Vincent and Margaret have sponsored a special award in her memory for the last three years.

This year’s Jemma O’Sullivan Award for Care and Compassion in the Practice of Pharmacy was presented to Nathan Medcalf during the University’s graduation ceremonies at the Stadium of Light.

Jemma O'Sullivan

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

During chemotherapy patient sessions, pharmacy graduate Nathan demonstrated care, empathy and good communication skills with patients, asking relevant questions, appearing interested and enthusiastic without being intrusive.

These qualities also served him well during a placement at Boots Pharmacy in The Bridges, Sunderland, when he advised a young woman to go to her doctor after extensive bruising had developed on her leg.

She returned a week later, still looking for pain killers but too nervous to go to her GP. Nathan reassured the women to call the doctor as the bruising had become significantly worse; he even offered to take her to the GP surgery.

“This lady eventually agreed to go thankfully,” explained the 26-year-old, from Hull.

Jemma O'Sullivan

“A couple of weeks layer she came in to thank me, as she’s been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She says she would never have gone without my advice and was now getting the correct treatment.”

Nathan added: “This is the reason why I decided on this career, you can make such a difference to other peoples’ lives. I’m absolutely thrilled to receive this award, it’s very special. It made my graduation ceremony all the more special too.”

Nathan was presented with a special glass gift as well as a cheque to support his future career.

A large glass memorial, created at Sunderland’s National Glass Centre, has also been permanently placed in the foyer of the University’s Sciences Complex. Recipients of the annual award have their names engraved onto a plaque that stands next to the glass memorial.

Roz Anderson, Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University, who taught both Jemma and Nathan, said: “Nathan is absolutely the right person for this special award. He is very caring and compassionate with a lovely nature.

“He talks to patients in a matter of fact way, but asks difficult questions with such sensitivity, when other students are obviously awkward. He seems to have a natural ability as a pharmacist.”

“Jemma’s parents were very keen that the award didn’t necessarily reflect the top academic performance, but was about demonstrating the caring and compassionate qualities of a pharmacist.

“These are qualities I always think about when I think of Jemma; a really friendly person who was easy to talk to. When she met people dying of cancer during a placement at North Tyneside Hospital, she was able to communicate with sensitivity and warmth with patients and wasn’t fazed by the situation.

“As this award is not based on academic achievements we asked all of our placement providers for nominations. The placement providers are the professional pharmacists – so who better to ask who is deserving of this award?”

Nathan is now embarking on his pre-registration as a clinical pharmacist at Hull Royal Infirmary for the next 12 months.

Jemma’s father Vincent said: “Jemma was a bright and intelligent young woman who brought nothing but joy to everyone who had the pleasure of meeting her. We felt this project encapsulates her memory, allowing us in some way to continue her good work and preserve what she represented.”