Health academics recognised for going above and beyond

An Inverness-based academic has been recognised for the support she gave to students and staff following the death of a colleague. Dr Antonia Pritchard, a senior lecturer in genetics and immunology at the University of the Highlands and Islands, has won the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association award for best research supervisor.

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Dr Pritchard, Marie Cameron and Dr Leah Macaden

Dr Pritchard was nominated for the award by students who praised the way she supported them during the illness of Dr Sharon Hutchinson. Dr Hutchinson, who was also an academic at the university, battled melanoma, the very condition their team were researching.

One student explained:

“A few days before entering 2020, Sharon Hutchison, who was also my supervisor, died. It was such a hard time for our close-knit office. Sharon’s disease progressed so quickly and it was especially intense being the disease we research. Antonia was incredibly supportive to me, our team, Sharon’s family and most of all to Sharon. It has been an unimaginably tough couple of years, but I am glad and lucky to have had Antonia as my supervisor.”

Dr Pritchard, who lives in the Crown area of Inverness and works at the An Lòchran building on Inverness Campus, was also commended for her encouragement, ambition and her quick responses to student enquiries.

Speaking about the news, Dr Pritchard said:

“This award was a wonderful surprise. I feel privileged to supervise postgraduate students and support early career researchers in their work. Guiding them as they learn scientific approaches and helping them grow into confident researchers is one of my favourite parts of my job. Receiving this award, particularly after such a difficult year for our team, was truly an unexpected honour.”

Marie Cameron, the university’s head of undergraduate nursing, and Dr Leah Macaden, a senior lecturer and lead for internationalisation in the department of nursing and midwifery, were also recognised in the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association awards.

Ms Cameron, who lives in central Inverness, was highly commended in the ‘above and beyond’ category. Based at the Centre for Health Science, she played a vital role in preparing nursing students to start their final placements early so they could help with the NHS COVID-19 response.

One nursing student explained:

“From the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, Marie has demonstrated professional leadership of the highest standards. When face-to-face teaching ended in March, Marie outlined the plan for transition to online teaching and made certain all students could access learning materials. Despite the logistical difficulties, uncertainty and rapid speed of change in terms of students being asked to join the NHS workforce early, Marie communicated all available information in the clearest possible way and responded to countless questions from students. She has done this with a genuine, warm and caring manner. She deserves recognition for her ongoing commitment to sharing knowledge - going above and beyond what is expected - and being a calming influence in times of crisis.”

Ms Cameron said:

“I am thrilled to have been highly commended in the above and beyond category, and very grateful for the nomination by our nursing students. So much has been asked of them during the COVID-19 crisis and they have more than risen to the challenge. They make us proud every day and it has been a privilege to help them in any way that I can.”

Dr Macaden, who lives in Lentran and works at the Centre for Health Science, was highly commended in the best research supervisor category and was also a nominee for the best personal academic tutor award. Feedback highlighted her enthusiasm and student-centred approach, with one student explaining:

“Dr Macaden has helped to make the challenging PhD research journey enjoyable and easier due to her high levels of experience, professionalism and approachability. She has consistently demonstrated high levels of enthusiasm for my project and her awareness of the fine detail contained within it is impressive. She has a unique talent for supervising postgraduate research students. It is best described by reciprocity; students want to do their best to ‘re-pay’ the amount of effort, authenticity and enthusiasm that Dr Macaden provides. Dr Macaden also has more fundamental qualities - she is kind, considerate and dependable.”

Dr Macaden commented:

“The department of nursing and midwifery is a great place to work that fosters creativity, freedom and commitment. Having been a recipient and beneficiary of excellent professional education and research expertise myself from India and Scotland, it is really important to me that I continue to invest in high quality nurse education and research in what I call the ‘bank of nursing’ for others to be able to draw from. I consider it both an awesome privilege and responsibility to be able to invest in future nurses and health care researchers for our region and beyond. I feel incredibly blessed with the commendation and am very grateful to my students and HISA to be recognised in this way.”

Organised by the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association, the HISA awards give students a chance to thank the academic staff, support staff and students who have inspired and supported them. The annual awards are judged by a student panel and winners are selected on the quality of the nomination. The other 2020 winners are:

•    Best Personal Academic Tutor/ Learning Support - Rachel Erskine, Lews Castle College UHI
•    Best Support Staff - Kathryn Sclater, Orkney College UHI
•    Best Class Representative - Pamela Kennedy, Highland Theological College UHI
•    HISA Society of the Year - Perth Archaeology and History Society, Perth College UHI
•    HISA Sports Club of the Year - Wind and Wave Club, SAMS UHI
•    HISA Hidden Heroes - Caroline Hepburn, NAFC Marine Centre UHI
•    Most Inspiring Lecturer - Ian Blyth, Inverness College UHI
•    Most Engaging video conference tutor - Nikki Perrin, Inverness College UHI
•    Most Engaging Online Tutor - Stephen Duncan, Inverness College UHI
•    Best Assessment Feedback - Stephen Duncan, Inverness College UHI
•    Above and Beyond (Student) - Julie Williams, Inverness College UHI
•    Above and Beyond (Staff) - Alan MacLeod, Inverness College UHI
•    Most Inspiring Student - Jack Reid, Inverness College UHI

HISA President, Flo Jansen, said:

“The HISA awards are a fantastic way to showcase the amazing work of our staff and students across the university partnership. This year we have encountered new challenges and it has been truly incredible to see a record number of award nominations despite the external factors we are facing. We hope that the awards show our appreciation of the amazing work going on behind the scenes every day, we’re so grateful to be able to celebrate these successes.”

Dr Iain Morrison, dean of students, added:

“The nomination period for these awards coincided with lockdown, with all the disruption to normal operations that entailed. Some of the student comments were profoundly moving and mean so much to all those who were nominated. Our staff have been quite incredible during this time and the fact that a record number of students took the opportunity to voice their appreciation for their hard work, commitment and care is powerful testimony to the core strength of this university: our people.”