A tribute to Professor Lynette Denny

On behalf of the AORTIC Council, I wish to convey my sincerest condolences to Prof Lynette Denny’s family, colleagues and friends.  Her volunteerism as Secretary Treasurer of AORTIC when it was revived in 2004, was instrumental in helping to grow AORTIC to its current position, as the leading organization and convener for research and training activities in cancer in Africa. We are forever grateful for her inspiring input.

Professor Lynette Denny, a luminary in the field of gynae– oncology and a relentless advocate for women’s health, has profoundly impacted the medical community through her dedication, research, and compassionate care. Her illustrious career has been marked by groundbreaking work in cervical cancer prevention and treatment, particularly in low-resource settings.

Throughout her career, Professor Denny has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to addressing disparities in healthcare access and outcomes. Her pioneering research has not only advanced scientific understanding but also translated into practical solutions that have saved countless lives. She has been a vocal proponent of the importance of screening and vaccination programs, which have dramatically reduced cervical cancer rates in many parts of the world. She was a true humanitarian who worked selflessly in a state-owned teaching hospital to be among the patients that she cared so much about.  She had a huge impact, culminating in transformation of the lives of those affected by cancer, especially in the African setting.

As an educator and mentor, Professor Denny has inspired a new generation of healthcare professionals. Her dedication to teaching and mentoring young doctors and researchers has ensured that her legacy will continue through the countless individuals she has trained and influenced. Her approach to medicine, characterized by empathy, rigor, and a deep commitment to her patients, serves as a model for all in the medical field. As a young surgical oncologist looking for mentorship, I noticed that she was very quick to lend her support and provide platforms to help amplify our ideas on improving care, and indeed was one of our founding patrons for the Pan African Women’s Association of Surgeons (PAWAS) aimed at expanding transformational leadership for women in surgery to improve access to safe surgery on the continent.

Reflections by Professor Lynette Denny provide some key insights into the person she was.


Professor Denny’s contributions extended beyond her clinical and research achievements. A significant part of her advocacy work has been through her involvement with the African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC). Through AORTIC, she has played a pivotal role in advancing cancer research and training across Africa, focusing on the unique challenges faced by the continent in combating cancer. Her efforts have been crucial in promoting collaborative research, capacity building, and the development of tailored cancer control strategies that address the specific needs of African populations.

Through AORTIC, Professor Denny facilitated numerous programs aimed at improving cancer care infrastructure, enhancing the skills of healthcare providers, and raising awareness about cancer prevention and treatment. Her leadership has been instrumental in fostering a community of African cancer researchers and practitioners dedicated to reducing the cancer burden in their countries.

Though a true pillar of African oncology has fallen, she is certainly not forgotten. The Lynette Denny Award for best Research related to Women’s Cancers and a memorial lecturehave been created by AORTIC as an initial step to continuing her legacy.

As we pay tribute to Professor Lynette Denny, we celebrate not only her remarkable achievements but also the enduring spirit of compassion and excellence she embodied. Her legacy will continue to inspire and guide the efforts of those dedicated to improving women’s health and combating cancer in Africa and beyond for generations to come.

What I would like to impart to those who follow me when I leave, is to be able to be of service to your community is a great privilege. It’s not a duty. It’s not a burden. Immersing myself in the Khayelitsha community was just so liberating...., to feel connected to humanity like that has been so enriching. I recommend it.”

Professor Lynette Denny

Miriam Mutebi,
AORTIC President
AORTIC Council

The African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) lost a nurturing and transformative leader with the recent passing of Professor Lynette Denny.

The initial association of the Professor of Gynaecology of the University Cape Town, South Africa, with AORTIC occurred in October 2003 at the 4th International Conference on Cancer in Africa, which had been organized to hold in Accra, Ghana with the chief objective of reactivating the organization, following its inactivity in Africa since the end of the 1980s. Her educative and academic performance at the meeting was so outstanding that her leadership role in the newly reactivated organization was unquestionable. In her subsequent role as the Secretary of AORTIC, she promptly proceeded to create a dynamic administrative office, actualizing the international activities of AORTIC with global and futuristic outreach. At several meetings held in various parts of Africa, it was not uncommon to see her using her charm and finesse to overcome the cultural challenges of a multinational and multi-ethnic organization like ours. Her enduring legacy includes the biennial Conferences of Cancer in Africa held in places with the diverse ambience of Cairo, Egypt; Kigali, Rwanda; and Marrakesh, Morocco, attracting global participation with opportunities of cultural and educational cross fertilization.

While we collectively mourn the premature demise of our great colleague and friend, we have a duty to commit ourselves to the continuation of her unfinished business, including the elimination of the scourge of cancer of the cervix, to which she dedicated much of her work among the poor in the Western Cape area of South Africa, and which continues to ravage much of Africa and the developing world.

Adieu, Lyn.

Professor Christopher K. Williams, MD, FRCPC
Co-Founder of AORTIC
Founding Secretary-General of AORTIC.

I am grieving deeply over the news of the passing of Lyn, my dear friend, treasured sister, hardworking colleague, and a worldclass medical scientist. She served AORTIC with distinction and with passion, as the first Secretary Treasurer. She was a very principled leader, always insisting on doing things right.  Lyn committed her heart, body, mind, and soul to the growth of AORTIC. What AORTIC is today is attributable to the solid foundation she laid in her tenure as Secretary-Treasurer. Lyn was AORTIC, and AORTIC was Lyn.

Working with her as first President of AORTIC from 2003 was great joy. With lightning speed and with great sense of humour as well, she worked to set up an office for AORTIC in South Africa. Together with others, she worked to produce the Constitution of AORTIC. She also networked AORTIC with other international cancer groups in the US, Europe, and Asia. Almost single-handedly, she raised funds to set up the secretariat and for major meetings of the organisation.

This bold, brave, and honest leader also made AORTIC visible in Africa through the Africa Union. Her role also in setting up a mentoring program for young cancer researchers for sustainable growth of AORTIC is recognised.

Professor Denny will be remembered as a distinguished scholar, a disciplined academic leader, and a trailblazer in cancer research in Africa and the world. Emulating her character, work-ethic, passion, and aspirations for excellence, will be a fitting tribute to pay to her memory. I am certain that is what Professor Lynette Denny would also cherish as legacy.

May her soul rest in peace.

Rev. Emeritus Professor Andrews Seth Ayettey

With a heavy heart, I write this tribute to my dear friend, Lyn, who has passed on. I first met her during the AORTIC Meeting of 2003 in Accra, where I was immediately drawn to her dedication to cancer work. She invited me to Cape Town, and from then on, our friendship blossomed.

Lyn served as the Secretary-Treasurer of AORTIC for many years, working tirelessly to elevate the organization to new heights. She was a remarkable human being, always there for me. Lyn played a significant role in my career, guiding me in cervical cancer prevention and providing numerous opportunities to present at international meetings.

A champion in the fight against cervical cancer in Africa and LMICs, Lyn was a mentor, researcher, and advocate for women’s health. Her compassion for underserved populations and dedication to serving humanity set her apart. Lyn’s legacy is everlasting, as she positively impacted countless lives around the world.

I will never forget the last time I saw Lyn in Cape Town in March 2023. Little did I know it would be our final meeting. I am grateful for all she did for me, and I expressed my gratitude to her in my last message on May 22nd, 2024.

Good night, my dear friend. May you rest in perfect peace. Your memory will forever live on in our hearts.
Professor Rose I. Anorlu

It was in 2009, 15 years ago, at the AORTIC biannual conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania that I first came across Lyn Danny, the then Secretary Treasurer of the organization. She was everywhere, full of energy and in every corner making sure that everything is in place. Like her life depends on it.

After several years of my involvement with AORTIC, I came to see and admire this amazon because of selflessness, unwavering dedication and commitment to AORTIC and her sincerity of purpose. And for 13 years, she dedicated herself to the organization and her time and resources. She almost singlehandedly, with few supporters of course, turned a moribund organization into a global cancer research organization and an African pride.

When I was elected President in 2019, my 1st point of call was her office as she was not at the conference in Maputo, because of ill health. Even at that, she gave me several hours of her time, listened to me and gave me wise counsel and that shaped my presidency.
She was e true African who worked, not for herself but for the downtrodden and importantly for Humanity. That was her calling- Humanity, and what a wonderful human she was!

You are truly missed, but history will judge you very kindly. Gone but never forgotten.

Adios, Lyn.

Prof. Bello Abubakar M. MD.
Past President AORTIC.

Lyn as I have known her was magnanimous with her mentoring skills when I met her at my first 2005 AORTIC
MEETING in SENEGAL. She made sure she volunteered me for several workshops and speaking positions, little
did I know she was grooming me to take over from her the position as secretary treasurer of AORTIC several
years later.

I learnt a lot from her, never condescending though I was very scared of this high achieving colleague, through
humility I followed her every thought processes for 2 years, tagging along and my oh my, I was sharply equipped
for the job I hardly had to go back because I knew how LYN would want it to be done. She never allowed me to
whimper, urging me on, not to give up, that was the type of mentor she was. She shared her health journey with
me but never gave up, always bounced back soldiering on. I was ecstatic to have met her again in TURKEY at
the lancet commissioners meeting, looking at the brighter side of life.

Professor DENNY was an ICON , academically and in her every dealings with a big heart for cancer care in SSA
bringing  professionals together through AORTIC.  She will never be forgotten and may she rest in PEACE.

Professor Verna Vanderpuye
Past AORTIC Secretary General

Lyn represented the best of our ideals. She was truly the Baobab on which many rested and nested.
She promoted and supported the African women by giving them a voice and promoting their health
and well-being.

Her research and clinical focus made her an icon in global health with special focus on cervical cancer.
Her tenure as Secretary/Treasurer in AORTIC was our golden era where we re-launched the Organization
to global relevance.

We shall surely miss her.

May her vibrant but gentle soul rest in peace.

Professor Isaac Adewole
AORTIC Past President

Lynette Denny Marrakech
Lynette Denny Marrakech
Lynette Denny Marrakech
Lynette Denny Marrakech
Lynette Denny Marrakech

Please join us in celebrating her life and send your tribute to: info@aortic-africa.org