‘A huge blow to the entirety of the healthcare sector’ – Tributes paid to world-renowned scientist and former Sunderland student

Professor Gita Ramjee passed away on Tuesday from COVID-19-related complications. Credit: Sunderland University Comms

A world-renowned scientist who studied at the University of Sunderland has died in hospital in South Africa from COVID-19 related complications.

Tributes have been paid to Professor Gita Ramjee who was a leading scientist in the fight against HIV. She passed away near Durban, South Africa on Tuesday.

She had been working as the Chief Scientific Officer at the Aurum Institute, a leading authority fighting HIV and tuberculosis.

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.

“In her, we have indeed lost a champion in the fight against the HIV epidemic, ironically at the hands of this global pandemic. In her honour, we should heed the call to flatten the curve by strengthening our responses to this global pandemic as well as continue the fight to achieve zero new HIV infections.”

Professor Ramjee fell ill after returning to South Africa from the UK in mid March.

Sir David Bell, the Vice-Chancellor of the University paid tribute to Professor Ramjee saying: “Gita Ramjee was a brilliant scientist who made an outstanding contribution to humanity through her work in alleviating disease and suffering. 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”

Ramjee graduated from the university with a degree in Chemistry and Physiology in 1980 when it was a polytechnic.

In recent years she had become a much-decorated scientist being awarded a gold scientific excellence award by the South African Medical Research Council, a lifetime achievement award at the International Microbicide Conference, and an outstanding female scientist award from the European Development Clinical Trial Partnership.

Speaking of her time at the University she said: “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. We worked hard but had a lot of fun too especially in the first two years – and I met my husband.”

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