In Conversation with Professor Dame Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu
This year, City Hall’s Black History Month celebrations brought together an inter-generational group of remarkable Black women including Amma Asante, Dame Professor Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu, Kelechi Okafor, Dame Linda Dobbs, Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene.
I had the great pleasure of taking part in a number of events, and was especially honoured to be able to spend an evening in Conversation with the leading nurse of her generation, the one and only Professor Dame Elizabeth Nneka Onionwu DBE.
Our conversation centred around her life and achievements, acknowledging her personal life as a mother and grandmother and the incredible twists and turns in her life story as outlined in her memoirs – ‘Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union’.
It’s a must read – and is available via Amazon Books. It has love, loss, courage, sadness, regrets, triumphs, integrity, etc, and gives the reader a moving insight into a life full of extraordinary challenges. Yet this celebrated nurse always found the resilience to overcome the challenges thrown at her.
We learnt that Elizabeth although loved by her Mother, spent 9 years in care as a child, and her early life was marked by racism and the stigma of illegitimacy. During our conversation she also reveals how she found her Nigerian father, and she shared with myself and invited guests her amazing life journey.
After qualifying as a registered general nurse Elizabeth went on to become a leading health expert, tutor, lecturer and Emeritus Professor of Nursing at University of West London.
In 1979 Anionwu became the first UK sickle/thalassaemia nurse specialist Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia helping to establish the Brent Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia Counselling centre in the UK
In 1998, now a Professor of Nursing, she created the Mary Seacole Centre for Nursing Practice at the University of West London. She holds a PhD, and in 2017 was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing.
Dame Elizabeth retired in 2007 and published her memoirs ‘Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union’ available from: