The nurse of a lifetime 

5 November 2019 | London and South East England 

The nurse, tutor and professor transforming healthcare for 50 years

Throughout her 72 years, Dame Elizabeth Anionwu has battled against the odds. And it’s clear that 2019’s Pride of Britain Lifetime Achievement award winner won’t halt her charge against inequality in healthcare.

As a little girl, Dame Elizabeth spent much of her childhood with nuns in a Catholic children’s home in Birmingham. While there, she suffered terribly from eczema. The kindness a nun showed her, helping her manage her condition, began her dream of becoming a nurse.

Elizabeth Anionwu

By age 16 she had already started her nursing training. Once qualified, she concentrated her time and energy on a condition that she realised was being overlooked by the NHS – Sickle Cell Disease, an illness that mostly affects the African and Caribbean communities. She went to the US to do research and soon became the UK’s first ever Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia nurse specialist.

She self-funded to open the Brent Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia Information and Screening Centre and ran it on her own for six years. “People came from all over England, Wales and beyond,” she explains, as she worked to raise awareness and get more funding. “I wrote to every single MP in the country.” Today, thanks to Dame Margaret’s work, every single baby born in the UK is screened for the illness.

Elizabeth Anionwu pull quote

She speaks very proudly about being patron of the Sickle Cell Society charity – and if you want to help her continue to raise awareness, she asks you go and find out more about it. “Google it and just find out about this illness.”

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