Dame Elizabeth Anionwu

This week for WiSE Wednesday we’re highlighting Dame Elizabeth Anionwu a British nurse and professor of nursing. She was the first nurse specialist on Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia in the UK, both of which are genetic blood diseases which disproportionately impact minority communities.  

Elizabeth Anionwu knew she wanted to become a nurse at an early age, inspired by a nun who treated her eczema when she was a child in a convent. Elizabeth faced many struggles growing up as a mixed race woman whose father was not in her life. She was initially rejected for nursing school despite having the necessary credentials. She was eventually accepted to nursing school, became a nurse and then a Health Visitor (a RN with additional public health training that sees patients at home). After reuniting with her father and Nigerian family she became interested in sickle cell anemia, a disease one of her cousins had that was poorly understood and which primarily impacts people of African descent. She partnered with haematologist Misha Brozovic to set up a clinic for information and treatment of sickle cell and related disease Thalassaemia. She spent the remainder of her career fighting to treat, raise awareness of and gain funding for Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia, but they are still underfunded compared to similar diseases that mainly impact white people. 

Elizabeth also founded the Mary Seacole Centre for Nursing Practice which aimed to increase diversity in the nursing profession and became a professor of nursing, arranging the course ‘Genetic Counselling for the Community: A multi-ethnic perspective’. She retired in 2007 after a career of fighting for increased diversity both in the profession of nursing and in the equity of research funding. 

Entry courtesy of Claire Regan 

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