Student with long term heart condition fulfils life-long dream of becoming an expert in Psychology

Posted on 16th August 2016

A Psychology student has earned her place on a PhD course after conducting research into the psychological effects of Cardiomyopathy, the long term heart condition she was diagnosed with herself at just six weeks old.

Jennifer (Jenny) Rees, 23, from Great Sutton, Ellesmere Port began her studies at another institution but moved back home during her second year due to ill health. She suffers from Cardiomyopathy, a long term disease of the heart muscle that affects people of all ages and is also the leading medical cause of sudden death in people under the age of 35.

Having grown up in the area, Jenny knew of the University’s success, so decided to transfer and complete her BSc Psychology degree at Chester. She initially planned to pursue a career in Educational Psychology, however she became more interested in Clinical and Health Psychology after enjoying modules in this area during her time at Chester.

Her research into the psychological effects of Cardiomyopathy attracted the attention of Professor 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 suffering with the condition. She also raises considerable funds for the charity by organising local events and will be a speaker at the 2016 national Cardiomyopathy Confrence.

Jenny was also awarded the Psychology departmental prize at Valedictory, the University’s annual prize giving service, for her dedication to her studies.

Jenny (pictured left) 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.”

During her PhD studies she will have the opportunity to gain a teaching qualification which will allow her to lecture nursing students on illness-related mental health. Her long term goals are to become a published psychological researcher and to continue researching the psychological impact of heart disease and discover new ways in which health services and policy could be improved to benefit patients.

Liz Whelen, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, said: “Jenny transferred into our second year after some time out of university due to ill health. She coped extremely well with a change of institution and all the staff found her hard working and fully engaged with her studies. She was awarded the department prize due to her continual dedication to her studies and the department itself.”