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Trace Richey (left) and Neil Pennock (right) with heads shaved for charity at St Vincent’s Hospital in 2015. Photo: The University of Sydney

New scholarship honours nurses of late cancer patient

A new nursing scholarship at the University of Sydney will honour the memory of the late Trace Richey and the nurses who cared for him during his battle with cancer.

A $160,000 gift will be used to establish the Trace Richey Nursing Scholarship at Sydney Nursing School this year.

Richey died of graft-versus-host disease 40 days after receiving a bone marrow transplant for myelodysplastic syndrome.

His partner, Neil Pennock, has now dedicated himself to supporting the education of nurses who care for those with cancer, especially patients receiving bone marrow transplants.

“The nurses all took such a shine to Trace and I have so much love and gratitude for them,” Pennock said. “They deal with so much trauma and they were all smiles.

"If that doesn’t deserve respect, I don’t know what does.”

The scholarship was originally suggested by a nurse who had cared for Trace at St Vincent's Hospital, and its introduction will allow one full-time student or two part-time students to complete "specialty nursing education" through a Master of Cancer and Haematology each year.

Sydney Nursing School Dean Professor Donna Waters said the scholarship was a gift from the TLR Foundation, which was set up by Pennock under the initials of his partner.

“I would love to have met Trace, but this sad experience has brought Mr Pennock to us with a deep understanding that while most funding goes to ‘finding a cure’ for cancers, nurses continue to partner in the care of many people diagnosed and treated for different types of cancers every day," she said.

“This scholarship will offer much-needed financial support for more nurses to undertake Masters level education in cancer care and treatment. We are very grateful for this thoughtful gift.

“Our whole focus is education, especially among younger people who are ideally placed to donate. There’s a less than five per cent chance that you will ever be called to donate bone marrow if you’re on the registry, but every potential donor makes a match more likely.”

Waters said the gift was a fitting tribute to Richey, whose career was dedicated to fundraising for the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the Santa Barbara Rehabilitation Centre, the Children's Hospital at Westmead and Mission Australia.

During his final stay in hospital, Richey pitched in to help nurses beat their fundraising target for the Leukaemia Foundation by $5000. He and Pennock also shaved each other's heads for the cause.

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