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Colleagues pledge to continue UHI researcher's work

By Val Sweeney

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Sharon Hutchison at work.
Sharon Hutchison at work.

COLLEAGUES of a “meticulous researcher” who died from the same type of cancer she was studying have vowed to carry on her work at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Melanoma expert Dr Sharon Hutchison (39) was based at the School of Health, Social Care and Life Sciences at Inverness Campus.

And in a tragic twist of fate, she died at Highland Hospice just a year after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease – Scotland’s sixth most common form of cancer.

Dr Hutchison’s colleague and friend Dr Antonia Pritchard said: “She was very stoic. She faced it with immense strength. She was remarkable.

“She was a great friend, meticulous researcher and I miss her immensely”. She added she was determined her friend’s legacy would live on and her team would continue to research the disease and raise awareness of melanoma, so people know how to spot the warning signs.

“Sharon was very passionate about people getting themselves tested,” Dr Pritchard said.

“Hopefully, that will be one of the outcomes from this.”

Dr Hutchison, who lived in Wester Inshes, joined the research team – set up with funding support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise – in the summer of 2018.

Previously, she worked for about six years in the radiopharmacy department at Raigmore Hospital, where she was involved in producing treatments for thousands of cancer patients.

She had also been involved in the development of drug treatments for melanoma at Glasgow University and for prostate cancer with a pharmaceutical company in York.

Although she was part of a small UHI research team based at An Lochran, its work involved worldwide collaboration.

Dr Pritchard recalled the sense of shock when her colleague was diagnosed with melanoma in January last year after spotting a mole on her neck.

She said: “She went to her doctor – she did all the right things, but her melanoma was a particularly aggressive form.

“She had major surgery and was back at work after one week. She had a tremendous work ethic when it came to her research.”

Although Dr Hutchison had two different types of therapy, the cancer spread.

“Being an expert in this, we knew from the outset what the options were,” Dr Pritchard said.

“She was very stoic. She faced it with immense strength. She was remarkable.

“She was a great friend, meticulous researcher and I miss her immensely.”

Dr Hutchison worked until the beginning of December, when she felt unwell, and died at the Highland Hospice surrounded by her family.

She leaves parents David and Jane and a brother, Neil.

In her spare time, she enjoyed outdoor pursuits including mountain biking and running events, including half-marathons.

Mourners were invited to give donations to the hospice at her funeral which took place at Falkirk Crematorium on Thursday.

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