TORT thanks Professor Dame Sue Black

I simply couldn’t abide by Sue’s wishes and allow her to slide out the back door of the University without any thanks” said Professor Rami Abboud, and added jokingly “… and anyway, I never listen to you Sue?” as he marked Professor Dame Sue Black’s leaving the University with an intimate surprise gathering and presentation of gifts at the Institute of Motion Analysis & Research (IMAR) on 20th June 2018.

Staff from IMAR, the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID) and the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science were all in attendance for the presentation.

Over the years Professor Black has been a great champion of IMAR and the Master of Orthopaedic Surgery (MCh Orth) at the Department of Orthopaedic & Trauma Surgery, TORT Centre. We will always be indebted to Sue and all her staff at CAHID for their continued efforts in allowing our students to participate in Thiel embalmed cadaveric workshops each year. It is an invaluable teaching tool and is unique to our orthopaedic surgeons as it gives them the opportunity to experience this unique approach to life-like surgical techniques. Only this year Mr Arpit Jariwala (Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon) initiated a new cadaveric hand workshop on surgical approaches.

“’I’d like to take this opportunity to state my gratitude and respect to all those who generously and voluntary bequeath their bodies to medical science for anatomical examination, research, education and training. Their generosity and pioneering spirit only goes to benefit future generations” stated Professor Abboud, Head of the Department of Orthopaedic & Trauma Surgery.

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Professor Abboud thanking Professor Black for everything she has done and achieved for the University of Dundee over the last fifteen years.

Professor Abboud thanked Professor Black for her continual support of IMAR and recounted stories of his working relationship and their great friendship and then presented her with a set of MCh/IMAR engraved glasses, a bottle of her ‘favoured’ drink (Limited Edition) to put in the glasses and a framed caricature especially commissioned by Professor Abboud for the occasion and illustrated by our award winning designer, Mr Ian Christie. Also supplied was a specially printed cake of Sue’s autobiography “All that Remains: A Life in Death”.

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Viv McGuire, PA for Professor Black and CAHID Secretary, then presented Sue with a jewellery set of bracelet and pendant depicting the ‘tree of life’, a large canvas print of one of artist Steven Brown’s Highland cattle, and a ‘human’ skull made entirely from chocolate!

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Left: Sue, Viv and Rami laughing at the caricature; Right: The chocolate skull - Alas poor YORKIE, I knew him well! (apologies to younger readers who don’t understand this reference).

Once over the shock, and with nobody murdered, Professor Black then thanked everyone present and gave an uproarious and at times emotional thank you which had everyone in fits of the giggles. She recounted some hilarious stories of her and Prof Abboud’s clandestine friendship over the years. A buffet lunch of pizza, pizza and even more pizza was washed down with non-alcoholic fizz.

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Loyal friends from IMAR, CAHID and Leverhulme wishing Sue every success in her new role.

Professor Rami Abboud added:

“Personally it is with a heavy heart that I bid a temporary farewell to my great friend, colleague and trusted ally … but as Sue herself recently stated ‘Only my feet are heading south, my heart and my head stay in Scotland’.

In my opinion the University has made a grave (no pun intended!) error of judgement in allowing Professor Dame Sue Black, OBE, to leave for the University of Lancaster for her new role of Pro Vice Chancellor for Engagement. Just reading her name and titles reinforces that she was one of Dundee University’s most highly decorated (if not the highest!) and widely acclaimed scholars with an unrivalled career, unprecedented CV; basically her finger prints, foot prints and DNA are plastered all over the world! It’s certainly the 21st Century’s greatest free-transfer since Zlatan Ibrahimovic went to Manchester United!

Over the past fifteen years at CAHID Sue has built forensic sciences and anatomy at our University into a world-renowned centre of excellence and as such was awarded the Queen’s Award for Excellence in 2013 so it is no wonder why she has become a household name and the go-to person in her profession. She was the key player in securing the shrewd £10m grant from the Leverhulme Trust that led to the resulting research centre for forensic science that opened in 2016 by HM the Queen and HRH Duke of Edinburgh. Professor Black was the recipient of over £20m during her time at the University of Dundee, so purely on a monetary level you can realise just what a loss her leaving us will be. Exalted shoes to fill indeed.

All that remains for me is to say that I’m proud to call Sue my personal friend and we are all fortunate that she has devoted the last 15 years here in the City of Dundee. I look forward to the time when she can reunite her feet with her head and heart and scramble north of Hadrian’s wall. Thanks Sue, you’ll always remain my most trusted friend, but it’ll be murder without you!

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Happiness can still be found in sad occasions! Left: Niamh Nic Daéid, Sue Black, Rami Abboud and Viv McGuire sharing a laugh; Right: Sue with colleague and friend David Russell.

Professor Black added:

“I knew I would never get away totally Scot free - but I am so heart-felt glad that today was with friends. It is a challenging time for all because change is never easy, but sometimes the ‘good old days’ turn out not to be as rosy as we remembered them anyway. I am certain that IMAR, CAHID and LRCFS will forge ahead because of the sheer determination and calibre of the people involved who lead with both their heart AND their head. Thank you from the bottom of my heart (and from the heart of my bottom)”

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IMAR would like to thank PhD student and amateur photographer, Nawaf Al Khashram, for giving his time freely to record the event.



Sue Black was born in Inverness and educated at Inverness Royal Academy. She attended the where She graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a BSc with honours in human anatomy in 1982, and a PhD for her thesis on ‘Identification from the Human Skeleton’ in 1986.

In 1987 Professor Black was appointed a lecturer in Anatomy at St Thomas' Hospital, London, which started her career in forensic anthropology, serving in this role until 1992. Between 1992 and 2003 she undertook various contract work the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the United Nations involving the identification of victims and perpetrators during various conflicts and wars. In 1999, she became the lead forensic anthropologist to the British Forensic Team in Kosovo, deployed by the FCO on behalf of the United Nations and later that year she was deployed to Sierra Leone and Grenada. In 2003 she undertook two tours to Iraq and in 2005 she participated in the UK's contribution to the Thai Tsunami Victim Identification operation as part of the earthquake and tsunami international response.

In 2005 Professor Black was appointed Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology at the University of Dundee, and in 2008, she established and head if the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee (CAHID), which runs undergraduate courses in forensic anthropology and postgraduate courses in anatomy and advanced forensic anthropology.

She is a Director of the Centre for International Forensic Assistance and a founder of the British Association for Human Identification and the British Association for Forensic Anthropology.

Professor Black starred in BBC2’s ‘History Cold Case’, which aired two series between 2010 and 2011. In February 2013, she was assessed as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the UK by BBC Radio 4’s Woman's Hour and in 2014 was also the subject of ‘The Life Scientific’ on the same station. In 2014, she appeared in the documentary ‘After the Wave: Ten years since the Boxing Day Tsunami’ examining the forensic response in Thailand to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. In October 2015, she was the guest for BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.