Two international pharmacy students are the very first recipients of a prize awarded in memory of a much-loved academic at the University of Sunderland.

Dr Paul Franklin, described as an “inspirational character” as senior lecturer in Pharmacology and Therapeutics sadly died, aged 54, last year. He had dedicated himself to all aspects of pharmacology, physiology, pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences at the University.

His family wanted to set up an annual award in his memory that goes to students who have shown excellence in clinical therapeutics.

Both Faith Alaje, from Nigeria, and Shao Xian, from Malaysia, were taught by Dr Franklin and were honoured to be named the very first recipients of the award.

Both students graduated this summer with First Class Honours from their MPharm degree.

Shao, 23, who chose to study at Sunderland after a friend in Malaysia recommended the programme, said: “I was surprised and in disbelief when I first got the news about the award as Dr Franklin was one of my favourite lecturers. This is incredibly rewarding, and I will definitely work harder in the future to attain higher achievements in this field.”

Shao son begins her pre-registration training year at Sunderland Royal Hospital and once fully qualified, plans to work in the UK for several years before returning home. However, she says she will never forget her university experience.

“I have definitely enjoyed my course throughout the whole four years especially meeting people from different walks of life. Despite having to face lots of challenges, I am grateful for all the support given to me throughout my university experience, especially by my housemates. I couldn’t have made it so far without their help and company.”

Faith, 40, a mature student and mum to a six-year-old boy, said:” I am excited and feel honoured to be the first recipient of this award. This is not without a tinge of sadness when I think of how Dr Franklin in his lifetime as a lecturer, gave his best to help me get to where I am now.”

Faith begins her pre-registration year at a community pharmacy in Saltburn by the Sea, and long-term wants to be an independent prescriber making a difference at a local GP surgery or hospital setting.

She adds: “I really enjoyed the course though it was challenging and rigorous. I was often intrigued by the clinical relevance of the science we were being taught.

“It is a joy to have graduated and I’m looking forward to going out there and making a positive impact on my community with the skills I have acquired during my MPharm Programme.”

Dr Franklin, from Washington, was educated at St Roberts of Newminster RC school in Washington. He began his academic life at Sunderland, graduating with a BSc in Pharmacology in 1988. He followed his degree with a PhD in 1992 investigating zinc homeostasis in the brain.

He then worked as a visiting lecturer at the University and undertook postdoctoral research looking at drugs and mitochondrial function. He was a permanent member of academic staff from 2006 initially as lecturer, then as senior lecturer, contributing to our undergraduate and postgraduate provision and research activities in the broad subject areas of pharmacology, physiology and clinical therapeutics.

Dr Adrian Moore, Head of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Sunderland, said: “Paul was an inspirational character that we were blessed to have as a friend and colleague for many years.

“He was passionate about his work and was able to blend expert knowledge of his diverse subject areas to deliver innovative and engaging teaching in his own unique way.

“With a generous donation from Paul’s family we have been able to set up an annual student prize in his memory to celebrate contributions to research, academic progression or excellence in clinical therapeutics, Paul’s area of academic teaching and research.

“Shao and Faith are outstanding recipients of this award and they both reflect the values that Paul was so passionate about. We wish them both every success in their future careers.”