An Ellesmere Port university student with a long-term heart condition has gained an outstanding achievement award after fulfilling her life-long dream.
Psychology student Jenny Rees, 23, from Great Sutton, studied at the University of Chester and earned her place on a PhD course at Liverpool John Moores after conducting research into the psychological effects of cardiomyopathy.
Jenny was diagnosed with the disease herself at just six weeks old.
She began her studies elsewhere but moved back home during her second year due to ill health.
The condition, affecting the heart muscle, is suffered by people of all ages and is also the leading medical cause of sudden death in those under the age of 35.
Having grown up in the area, Jenny knew of the University of Chester’s success so decided to transfer and complete her BSc Psychology degree in the city.
She initially planned to pursue a career in educational psychology but became more interested in clinical and health psychology after enjoying modules in this aspect.
Her research into the psychological effects of cardiomyopathy attracted the attention of Prof Ian Jones of Liverpool John Moores University who then offered her a place on a PhD course focusing on the personal impact of the disease on the patient, family and carers.
Alongside her studies Jenny works closely with national charity Cardiomyopathy UK, co-running a support group in Cheshire and Merseyside with her mother Julie for others with the condition.
She also raises ‘considerable funds’ for the charity by organising local events and was a speaker at the 2016 national Cardiomyopathy Conference.
Jenny was awarded the psychology departmental prize at Chester University’s annual prize-giving service for her dedication to her studies.
She said: “The psychology degree has enabled me to fulfil a life-long dream to become an ‘expert’ in the field of health psychology.
“The knowledge, guidance and range of experiences I have gained through my time at the University of Chester has been essential to securing a place on a fully-funded PhD course and has given me the confidence to build a career around my passion for the subject.”
Her efforts have been further rewarded with an outstanding achievement award from the charity.
Chief executive Joel Rose said: “All the team at Cardiomyopathy UK felt that Jenny was a worthy winner of The Carolyn Biro award for outstanding achievement.
“This award, named in honour of the charity’s founder, is given to an individual who has done so much to improve the life of people affected by the heart muscle disease cardiomyopathy.
“Despite struggling with cardiomyopathy herself, Jenny has worked tirelessly to help others, leading a local support group, alongside her ever supportive mum and through her academic career helping doctors to understand the needs of people with the disorder.“
Jenny said: “I attended the national conference unaware that there was going to be a short award ceremony at the end of the day.
Five volunteers, all personally affected by cardiomyopathy, were recognised with an award and I am truly honoured to be one of them.
“Alison Fielding, chair of Cardiomyopathy UK and a personal friend, presented me with an award for my achievements thus far and for my contribution to research within the field.
“I was really surprised to hear my name being read out but her kind words were very much appreciated and left me a bit emotional.
“I am so grateful to the charity for all the support they have given me throughout my life and am delighted to be presented with an award created in honour of their founder.”
During her PhD studies Jenny will have the opportunity to gain a teaching qualification which will allow her to lecture nursing students on illness-related mental health.