I first met Jennifer in April 1993. At the time she was working as a paediatrician in Oxford, as well as acting as medical advisor to the Down’s Syndrome Association. She was planning to wind down her work commitments and was looking for another doctor with an interest in Down’s Syndrome to support her in this role. At that first meeting, I didn’t realise how big a part of my life this work would become for me, but I was inspired by Jennifer‘s enthusiasm for improving the healthcare for those with the syndrome and the depth and breadth of her knowledge to support this. Much of this was acquired through research work in the field, and she had also established in Oxford one of the first clinics for children with Down Syndrome in the UK.
Over the next few years, we worked together supporting the Down’s Syndrome Association advice service and started to think about other things we could do to improve the health care of people with Down Syndrome. In 1995 ,we brought together a group of doctors we knew to be working in the field with the aim of producing guidelines to improve the healthcare offer to these children based on the best evidence.
This led to the first meeting of the group that came to be the Down Syndrome Medical Interest Group of UK and Ireland ( DSMIG).From those first small meetings of less than 20 people, the group has grown and gone from strength of strength to a group of 120 health professionals in the UK and beyond, as well as many more people interacting with DSMIG via our oversubscribed academic meetings and our well used and respected website – both Jennifer’s ideas.
Jennifer also initiated and implemented many of our other resources, all made possible by her energy and enthusiasm as well as many hours of hard work. The group has developed evidence-based practice guidance, information for parents, a book, and journal articles. DSMIG is now recognised as a speciality group of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, of which Jennifer was a Fellow for many years.
Jennifer remained an active member of DSMIG well into her 70’s. She was well respected by colleagues in the UK and abroad for her contribution in improving the health of people with Down Syndrome and received an award from Down Syndrome International to acknowledge this. She inspired many young clinicians and researchers to continue in this endeavour. In recognition of her contribution as founder, and for over 20 years of service, DSMIG has established the Jennifer Dennis Research Award, to encourage and reward research in the area of healthcare for children with Down syndrome.
Dr Liz Marder, on behalf of DSMIG