Pioneering Oxford Brookes University researcher named among Nation’s Lifesavers

Thursday, 16 May 2019

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Professor Helen Dawes of Oxford Brookes University has today been recognised for her exceptional contribution to keeping the nation healthy.

Professor Dawes who leads the Movement Science Group based in the University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, is one of the Nation’s Lifesavers – a list of the top 100 individuals or groups based in universities whose work is saving lives and making a life-changing difference to our health and wellbeing.

They have been named for the first time today as part of Universities UK’s MadeAtUni campaign, which brings to life the impact of universities on everyday lives.

Professor Dawes is well known for improving access to exercise for adults and children with long-term conditions and disabilities like stroke, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis.

She’s working with a team involved in ongoing research into the Indian Ocean Row 2018. This involved a crew of four men who rowed across the Indian Ocean in that year. Team member Robin Buttery, who has Parkinson’s disease, is helping them to investigate how people cope with such intense physical and mental stress.

The Nation’s Lifesavers are fighting diseases, helping new parents and children enjoy the best start in life, supporting older people and improving our mental health and wellbeing. The selection reveals the amazing use of technology, such as drones to fight malaria, a smart glove for communicating sign language and robots helping older people.

Professor Helen Dawes said: “It is a fantastic honour to be recognised as one of the Nation’s Lifesavers for our team’s work to improve the lives of those with long-term conditions.

“We’re grateful for the support we have received from Robin Buttery, who completed the gruelling 2018 Indian Ocean Row whilst managing Parkinson's. His walking improved after the row and he has shown that you can live with a condition - in fact a third of adults are living with one long-term condition. He’s put across a message of what you can do and not what you can’t or shouldn’t do”.

Dame Katherine Grainger, Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, commented: “It has been truly inspiring to learn about the health transformations that Helen and her team are making to people’s lives every day. I am excited to see the next phase of their work, which will focus on identifying the optimal amount of exercise for those living with long-term conditions. The MadeAtUni campaign is a great chance to celebrate the many ways universities are having a significant impact on our everyday lives.”

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President Universities UK and former Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes, said:

“When people think of lifesavers they tend to focus on the dedication and skill of our doctors, nurses, carers, and paramedics – many of whom are trained at universities. Every day, up and down the country, universities are also working on innovations to transform and save lives. Research taking place in universities is finding solutions to so many of the health and wellbeing issues we care about and the causes that matter.

“This campaign is a chance to bring to life the wonderful and often unexpected work going on every day in our universities and to celebrate some of the people working to make a life-changing difference to the nation.”

Dame Katherine Grainger interviewed Professor Helen Dawes about the Indian Ocean Row 2018 project. You can see the interview on Youtube:


Research shows the public are proud of UK universities[1] but have little understanding of the benefits they bring, with most not being aware that UK academics are behind many of the discoveries that save lives and keep up healthy. The MadeAtUni campaign gives the public an insight into some of this work and celebrates those who made it happen. More information on the campaign can be found on the dedicated website: