Professor Peter Howie, retired Dean of the University of Dundee Medical School and long-term supporter of the Ninewells Cancer Campaign recalls the formation of NCC and Jacqui’s infectious enthusiasm for fundraising:
“In the early 1990s, Dundee University had great strength in Life Sciences doing basic research in cancer. The University decided to exploit this by developing an additional cancer research base at the Medical School in Ninewells Hospital where cancer patients were being treated. To lead this initiative, they wished to recruit Professor Roland Wolf and his team from Edinburgh. Roland, who already had research links with Dundee, said that he would come if “state of the art” laboratories were made available. The price tag was £1million. When half of the money had been identified, the Principal, Michael Hamlin, asked Pat McPherson if he would lead a public appeal for the balance. Pat said that he would bring his business experience and work in the background, but he needed someone with charisma to be the public face of the appeal. When Pat saw Jacqui and heard her speak at the Dundee Rotary Club meeting, he knew immediately that he had found the right person for the job.
Jacqui and Pat made an unbeatable team. They recruited enthusiastic volunteers and got full support from the City Council, the DC Thomson Press, Trusts and Benefactors; but above all, Jacqui won over the ordinary people of Tayside to the cause. The huge success of the Ninewells Cancer Appeal is now history. There were fun runs, coffee mornings, sponsored silences and students had their heads shaved in pubs; one elderly lady who met Jacqui in the street opened her purse and asked her to take what was there. The generosity of the people knew no bounds. In leading the appeal, Jacqui set a number of golden rules. Every penny went to the Ninewells Cancer Appeal and none to the fund raisers. Every donation was equally important irrespective of its size. Warm letters of thanks had to be sent out immediately. She was prepared to go anywhere, at any time to receive a donation. Her photo appeared regularly in the papers with Dennis and the now famous slogan of “Help Dennis beat the Menace”. Everyone knew that she did this for one reason only, namely to promote the success of the Appeal. The first Ninewells Cancer Appeal not only met its target but exceeded it; the extra funds were used to launch the second and third appeals which brought clinical research scientists to Dundee and strengthened the science base. Further projects have followed in, for example, bowel, skin and throat cancer, in leukaemia and in surgical treatment.
It is difficult to overstate the significance of what Jacqui achieved. When Jacqui started the appeal, Ninewells had relatively few active researchers. Recently, the Medical School has brought their active researchers all together in one division which numbers five hundred people. Dundee’s research has made a huge contribution to the world-wide progress being made against cancer. The income from research grants and commercial spin-out companies is crucial for the Tayside economy. Dundee’s reputation for excellence in cancer research is a source of pride for the University and the city. None of these achievements would be as well advanced as they are today without the very special contribution of Jacqui Wood.”
We are delighted that Jacqui’s extended family was able to join us in May 2013 to celebrate the opening of the Jacqui Wood Cancer Centre.