Annual Bursary Launched in Memory of Dr Jennifer McCaughan

Dr Jennifer McCaughan, a consultant transplant nephrologist at the Belfast City Hospital and Director of the Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics Laboratory in Belfast, sadly passed away one year ago aged 38 from metastatic cancer.

To celebrate and honour Jennifer’s life work and passion, the Northern Ireland Kidney Research Fund will fund a new annual bursary. The seed funding for the bursary comes from donations in lieu of flowers for Jennifer and thereafter it will be funded by the Northern Ireland Kidney Research Fund.

This will enable a chosen applicant to present their kidney or histocompatibility and immunogenetics (H&I) research at a prestigious conference.

The bursary is intended to support successful candidates in broadening their education and progressing in their careers in kidney or H&I science.

This is an annual award subject to a high-quality abstract being accepted for oral presentation. If there is not an award made in a year this can be carried over so that an additional award can be offered the following year.

The funding of up to £2,000 will support the applicant to attend a conference to present their kidney or H&I research.

For further details and application, click here.

Jennifer’s Career

Dr McCaughan graduated with honours in Medicine in 2006 from the University of Edinburgh, receiving the Scottish Association for Medical Education Prize for the most distinguished woman graduate of the year. Her early promise translated into a rapid career progression. She started clinical training in Northern Ireland and obtained the MRCP(UK) in 2009. In 2010, she was appointed to an Academic Clinical Fellowship and started her higher specialist training in renal medicine, passing the RCP Specialty Certificate, now known as MRCP(UK) Nephrology, in 2012. 

As a research student at Queen’s University Belfast, Jennifer focused on longer term complications related to kidney transplantation. She designed elegant experiments that explored the genetic background to new onset of diabetes after a transplant. Her original discoveries of the genetic variants that predispose to this were published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, one of more than 30 scientific papers that she published during her career, some written during her final illness.

During her PhD studies, Jennifer became interested in H&I, the science underpinning transplantation. A bespoke training plan was developed for her and supported by the Northern Ireland Kidney Research Fund. She completed her PhD in 2015, and moved back to Scotland to train in H&I at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh and Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow, passing the first part of the FRCPath (H&I) examinations in 2016. She managed to compress the usually prolonged period of H&I training into just 3 years. This included moving to Toronto for a year’s combined clinical nephrology and H&I laboratory fellowship with Dr Kathryn Tinckam, a formative experience that really broadened Jennifer’s understanding of both the art and the science of transplantation.

Returning to the UK in 2018, Jennifer juggled the twin demands of completing the last months of her specialist training in nephrology whilst sitting the final examinations to attain the FRCPath (H&I) qualification. She thus became uniquely qualified to lead a scientific laboratory and to practise nephrology, something never previously achieved in the UK. Later that year, Jennifer was appointed to her final senior posts. She immediately set about reforming practice with her typical fierce force of nature, tempered by the kindness and humility she had shown throughout her training.

Jennifer was an astute clinician, talented researcher, effective leader and gifted teacher. She was at the very start of a career that promised great achievements when her cancer was diagnosed in 2020. Despite her terminal prognosis, and the challenging side-effects of palliative treatment, Jennifer continued to work and support her H&I laboratory and renal unit colleagues.

Her passionate Christian faith underpinned all that she was and did. She is greatly missed by family, friends, colleagues and patients.