Sharon Perry (d. 10 July 2015)

Dear friends and colleagues,

Some days feel heavier than others. Today we have to announce that our dear SAMU team member, Dr Sharon Perry, passed away from a severe chronic disease.

She unfortunately did not survive a surgical intervention: although fully aware of the risks, Sharon decided she would live her life to the fullest or not live at all, and hence took the risky option of going for an operation in Denver, Colorado.

She left the fridge here in Cape Town full of food: well, actually she wasn’t eating that much but no doubt, she would be back soon!

Sharon was a very experienced PhD infectious disease epidemiologist with 20 years’ experience working in the fields of HIV and TB. After receiving her PhD at the University of California, she was a senior biostatistician at Stanford. In 2002, she went to Stanford University to help develop research on emerging diagnostics for TB in a large community-based cohort of US immigrants. While at Stanford, she researched the immuno-epidemiology of tuberculosis.

From 2000 to 2002, she was a senior statistician with the REACH cohort studying HIV outcomes in a cohort of San Francisco homeless where she developed a keen interest for HIV patients.

From 2002 to 2011, she was a senior research scientist in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine at Stanford, and during this time she became involved in one of the projects she was proudest of: the Stanford-North Korea Tuberculosis Project, which she directed until 2011. This project aimed at promoting peace via scientific links with North Korea. She also served as a WHO TB program reviewer, and on the advisory board for MDR-TB in WHO Southeast Asia.

We now realise that Sharon asked us only a few weeks ago to return to North Korea for the 6th time, for a short visit as if she knew it would be the last visit.

Sharon joined MSF in 2012 as a field epidemiologist in Chiradzulu Malawi, working with OCP.

She would describe herself as an epidemiologist by necessity, dedicated to the process of supporting the evidence-basis of humanitarian endeavours: despite her prominent career, she remained humble and passionate to the end, fighting both her disease and other people’s diseases with the same energy and compassion Although she only joined SAMU in July 2014, just one too-short year ago, she rapidly became a reference for both M & E challenges and operational research, embarking in several field support visits from Mozambique and DRC to Malawi. We had to fight hard to convince her to drop a last visit to Mozambique the week before her surgery was planned.

We will miss you deeply Sharon for your fighting spirit and your robust sense of humour.

Although your stay amongst was too short, we loved you Sharon.

Tom, Robyn, Eric and the entire SAMU team.

By: Göran Svedin