By Denrele Animasaun

She has written extensively and is a co-author with Professor Karl Atkin of the book ‘The Politics of Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia’ published in 2001 by the Open University Press.

Dame Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu
Dame Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu

She is a Patron of the Sickle Cell Society, the Nigerian Nurses Charitable Association (UK)  and the Sickle & Thalassaemia Association of Nurses, Midwives & Associated Professionals (STANMAP).

She chaired several projects for the NHS Sickle and Thalassaemia Screening Programme.

These included: • the development of ‘Caring for people with sickle cell disease and thalassaemia syndromes: A framework for nursing staff’ that was accredited in 2010 by the Royal College of Nursing • ‘Understanding the contribution of sickle cell and thalassaemia specialist nurses’ (2012), funded through a grant from the Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity.

“Her tireless work to ensure that people affected by sickle cell disease and thalassaemia get the support they need has touched the lives of thousands.” – Lord Victor O Adebowale CBE, MA CEO, Turning Point

There is more- Professor  Anionwu helped set up the Mary Seacole Statue Appeal, which culminated in a magnificent statue of Mary Seacole over looking the house of parliament  and it is on the grounds of  St. Thomas hospital in London.

In 1997 Elizabeth was appointed as Dean of the School of Adult Nursing and Professor of Nursing at the University of West London.  In 1999 she established and was Head of the Mary Seacole Centre for Nursing Practice until her retirement in 2007.  The university then honoured Elizabeth with the award of Emeritus Professor of Nursing.

Elizabeth was vice-chairperson of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal from its launch in November 2003. The statue was unveiled in the grounds of London’s St Thomas’ Hospital in June 2016. Elizabeth is now a Life Patron of the new charity, the Mary Seacole Trust.

Mary Seacole  was a mixed race with Jamaican and Scottish parentage, who was a doctress and a woman of means and courage. Mary was a formidable woman who nursed wounded soldiers during the Crimean war. She was honoured by Queen Victoria and it was reported that when she to the UK, Firmer soldiers lined the road to get a glimpse and thank her for her service. Mary Seacole’s contribution was largely forgotten if not for the drive of  Professor Anionwu.  Mary Seacole is now  studied and spoken about due to the recognition in schools in the UK.

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Professor  Anionwu is  the author of  memoirs Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union . Elizabeth Anionwu’s memoirs ‘Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union’ are available in paperback. They can also be downloaded as an e-book from Kindle Amazon & Kobo. Please visit her website for more information:

Visit Elizabeth’s Facebook Page:

The book charts the fascinating story of her journey through a great number of childhood adversities, including severe beatings at the hands of her stepfather, racism and exclusion, and how she overcame it to become a nurse, health visitor, educator and PhD, and Emeritus Professor of Nursing at the University of West London. She was awarded the CBE in 2001.

One reviewer said of the memoir: Do get hold of this and read it. This is the sort of book that changes who you are. It’s an astonishing story, beautifully told with sensitivity, humour and pace. Not only is it a revealing social history of British attitudes to the perceived stigmas of race and illegitimacy; it’s an intensely personal account of a remarkable woman’s realisation of the world around her and her determination to make it a better place. Elizabeth Anionwu is an alchemist, turning shame and prejudice into strength and service. Utterly inspiring.”

In 2017  Queen ‘New year’s  Honour list, Elizabeth was honoured with a Damehood (DBE) in her services to nursing and the Mary Seacole Statue Appeal.

The Queen’s Nursing Institute awarded her a Fellowship (FQNI) in October 2017. In 2001 she was awarded a CBE for services to nursing.

In 2004 she was presented with the Royal College of Nursing Fellowship (FRCN) for her work in the development of nurse-led sickle cell and thalassaemia counselling services and education and leadership in transcultural nursing.

In July 2018, as part of the celebrations for the 70th Anniversary of the National Health Service, Elizabeth was included in the list of the 70 most influential nurses and midwives in the history of the NHS.

Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu was awarded an honorary doctorate from Birmingham City University in recognition of her major contribution to the profession.

When asked what inspires her to keep going she said, “Seeing the improvements that have happened so far. But I’m not satisfied until other gaps in service for BME patients and health professionals are addressed.”

During a speech at the graduation ceremony, she told graduands to make the most of their talents in their future careers and advised them to “always be confident” about their strengths and weaknesses.

On collecting her honour, Professor Anionwu, also paid tribute to Birmingham’s healthcare services, which made a major difference to the life of one of her cousins with sickle cell.

“Be aware of who supports you, of who’s looking out for you,” said Professor Anionwu. “And it may not necessarily be the people that you expect, so we mustn’t stereotype the type of people we think will support us or won’t support us.”

Professor Anionwu closed her speech by offering advice to graduates on making the most of their talents in their future careers.

She said: “Always be confident about both your strengths and weaknesses.

“There’s often solutions to our problems, and to the differences that we may have which may pose barriers,” she said.

I have a feeling that that there is more  Professor  Anionwu has  on her to do list and she of course is determined to accomplish  every single one of them .







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