Elizabeth Anionwu

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Professor Dame

Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu

Elizabeth Mary Furlong

2 July 1947
  • Lawrence Anionwu (father)
  • Mary Furlong (mother)

Professor Dame Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu DBE FRCN (born Elizabeth Mary Furlong; born 2 July 1947) is a British-born nurse, health expert, tutor, lecturer and Emeritus Professor of Nursing at University of West London of Irish and Nigerian descent.

In 1979 Anionwu became the first UK sickle/thalassaemia nurse specialist sickle cell and thalassemia helping establish the Brent Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia Counselling centre in the UK[1] with Consultant Haematologist Dr Milica Brozovic. 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, was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and is a Fellow of the RCN.[2] She retired in 2007 and published her memoirs Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union.

Early life[edit]

Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu was born Elizabeth Mary Furlong in Birmingham,[3] the child of an unmarried 20-year-old English middle-class woman of Irish descent named Mary Maureen Furlong who was in her 2nd year studying Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge University.[4]

Her upbringing had been heavily affected by moving between institutions and family. She spent just over two years living with her mother, a relationship that ended when her stepfather, who didn't accept her and drank heavily, started to physically abuse her. For much of her childhood, she was cared for by nuns, including several years in the Nazareth House convent in Birmingham.[4]

Often harshly punished and humiliated for wetting the bed, she remembers being made to stand with a urine-soaked sheet over her head as a punishment for wetting the bed. In the book she recalls, that later in life when working as a health visitor, "I made sure to keep up-to-date with more humane treatments for bedwetting". Nonetheless, she grieved leaving the convent to go and live with her mother. Every period of relative stability in childhood ended in sudden collapse. Following an unsettled childhood she qualified as a nurse then health visitor. Shortly before her 25th birthday she suddenly found her father barrister and former Nigerian Ambassador to Italy & the Vatican, Lawrence Odiatu Victor Anionwu. She was to frequently visit Nigeria and later changed her surname to Anionwu. -->[4]


Anionwu has credited her father, Lawrence Anionwu, a barrister and diplomat, as the first person to provide her with career advice. Anionwu has one child, her daughter Azuka Oforka, an actress (Casualty).[citation needed]


Anionwu began her nursing career at a young age after being inspired by a nun who cared for her eczema. At the age of 16, she started to work as a school nurse assistant in Wolverhampton. Later on, she continued with her education to become a nurse, health visitor, and tutor. She travelled to the United States to study counselling for sickle cell and thalassemia centres as courses were not then available in the UK. In 1979 she worked with Dr Milica Brozovic to create the first UK Sickle Cell and Thalassemia counselling centre in Brent. The opening of this counselling centre pioneered the opening of over 30 centers in the UK using the Brent Centre as a model.

In 1990 at the Institute of Child Health, University College London, she was a lecturer and then later promoted to a senior lecturer. With the help of Professor Marcus Pembrey, Anionwu taught a course at the University College London that was for NHS staff members who worked with communities affected or at risk of sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, Tay–Sachs disease and thalassaemia.

She was appointed Dean of the School of Adult Nursing Studies and a Professor of Nursing at University of West London. Here she created the Mary Seacole Centre for Nursing Practice at the University of West London until her retirement in 2007. In 2001, Anionwu, along with Professor Atkin, wrote the book The Politics of Sickle Cell and Thalassemia. In 2005, she wrote a book, A Short History of Mary Seacole. In 2003 she became a Trustee and subsequently Vice-Chairperson of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal. Following the unveiling of the Memorial Statue at St Thomas’ Hospital in June 2016 she was appointed a Life Patron of the Mary Seacole Trust.

Anionwu is also a Patron of other charities:[5]

  • Sickle Cell Society
  • Nigerian Nurses Charitable Association UK
  • Vice President of Unite/Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association
  • Honorary Advisor to England's Chief Nursing Officer's Black & Minority Ethnic Strategic Advisory Group


Throughout the course of her career Anionwu has published many pieces of works. She has written and, in 2016, published a memoir called Mixed Blessing from a Cambridge Union (ISBN 978-0-9955268-0-8).[6]

She has published works related to her field of work and study in many journals. She has written informative pamphlets for family members of sickle cell patients, nurses who care for sickle cell patients, and information for the general population.[7]

Selected writings[edit]

  • 1977: "Self Help in Sickle Cell Anaemia". World Medicine 12(25): 86–91.
  • 1978: "Sickle Cell Menace in the Blood". Nursing Mirror; 147(3): 16–19.
  • 1981: (with A. Beattie) "Learning to cope with Sickle Cell Disease – A Parent's Experience". Nursing Times; 77(28): 1214–19.
  • 1982: "Sickle Cell Disease". Health Visitor; 55: 336–341.
  • 1983: "Sickle Cell Disease: Screening & counseling in the antenatal and neonatal period". Midwife, Health Visitor & Community Nurse; 19: 402–406 (Part 1, October).
  • 1984: (with M. Brozovic) "Sickle cell disease in Britain". Journal of Clinical Pathology; 37: 1321–1326.
  • 1985: "Pain Perception in Sickle Cell Crisis". In: A. Baughan (ed.), Pain in Sickle Cell Disease. Sickle Cell Society, 1985.
  • 1986: (with H. Jibril) Sickle Cell Disease – A guide for families. London: Collins.
  • 1988: (with N. Patel, G. Kanji, H. Renges, M. Brozovic) "Counseling for Prenatal Diagnosis of Sickle Cell Disease and Beta Thalassemia Major. A four year experience". Journal of Medical Genetics; 25:769–72.
  • 1989: (with O. O. Akinyanju) "Training of counsellors on sickle cell disorders in Africa". Lancet; 1: 653–654.
  • 1991: "Teaching Community Genetics". Nursing; 4(42): 37–38.
  • 1992: "Sickle Cell Disorders in Schoolchildren". Health Visitor; 65(4): 120–122.
  • 1993: "Genetics – A Philosophy of Perfection?" In: Beattie A., M. Gott, L. Jones & M. Sidell (eds), Reader in Health & Well Being. Macmillan/Open University Press, 1993: 76–83.
  • 1994: "Women and sickle cell disorders". In: Wilson, M. (ed.), The Black Women's Health Book, London: Virago Press, 1994, pp. 6174.
  • 1996: (with L. Laird, C. Dezateux) "Neonatal screening for sickle cell disorders: what about the carrier infants?" British Medical Journal, 313:407–411.
  • 1997: "Haemoglobinopathies". Practice Nurse 25 April:13;374–379.
  • 1998: (with J. Chapple) "Health Needs Assessment: Genetic Services". Chapter 12, in: S. Rawaf & V. Bahl (eds), Assessing health needs of people from minority ethnic groups.London: Royal College of Physicians, 1998, pp. 169–190.
  • 1999: "In the Shadow of the Lamp. The story of the Crimea’s Unsung Nursing Heroine". Primary Nursing Care, November, pp. 21–22.
  • 2000: (with D. Sookhoo, J. Adams) "In the Melting Pot". Nursing Times 96:29, pp. 40–41.
  • 2001: "Screening and Genetic Counseling in Sickle Cell Disease". Archives of Ibadan Medicine, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 54–56.
  • 2002: "Leg ulcers and sickle cell disorders". Nursing Times, Vol. 98, No. 25, pp. 56–57.
  • 2003: "It's time for a statue of Mary Seacole". Nursing Times 99(32): 17 (12 August).
  • 2004: "Nursing input is crucial to genetics policy". Nursing Times 100 (25): 18. (22 June).
  • 2005: A short history of Mary Seacole: a resource for nurses and students. London: Royal College of Nursing.
  • 2006: (with E. Oteng-Ntim, C. Cottee, S. Bewley) "Sickle Cell Disease in Pregnancy". Current Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 16: 353–360.
  • 2007: "Making my mark". Nurse Researcher 14 (2): 84–86.
  • 2008: "Sickle cell disease: quality of care needs to improve within the NHS". Diversity in Health and Social Care. 15 December, 5:237–9.
  • 2009: "Sickle Cell Disease in on the increase and nurses need to be aware". Nursing & Midwifery Council News, Issue 28/May, p. 12.
  • 2012: "Mary Seacole: nursing care in many lands". British Journal of Healthcare Assistants, May, Vol. 6, No. 5.
  • 2013: "Scotching three myths about Mary Seacole". British Journal of Healthcare Assistants. October, Vol. 7, No. 10.
  • 2014: (with A. Leary) "Modeling the Complex Activity of Sickle Cell and Thalassemia Specialist Nurses in England". Clinical Nurse Specialist, September/October, Vol. 28, Issue 5, pp. 277–282.
  • 2014: (with C. Staring-Derks, J. Staring) "Mary Seacole: Global Nurse Extraordinaire". Journal of Advanced Nursing.


Anionwu was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2001 for her services to nursing. In 2004 she was awarded the Fellowship Of the Royal College of Nursing (FRCN) for developing the sickle cell and thalassemia counselling centre. In 2007, following her retirement, she was appointed Emeritus Professor for Nursing at the University of West London.

In 2010 she was inducted into the Nursing Times Nursing Hall of Fame for the dedication to the Development of Nurse-led Services[1]. She also received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award on Divas of Colour. Anionwu was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to nursing and the Mary Seacole Statue Appeal.[8] Anionwu was awarded a Fellowship of the Queen’s Nursing Institute in October 2017[9].


  1. ^ a b "NHS England » BME nurses and midwives instrumental in helping shape the NHS of today". www.england.nhs.uk. Retrieved 2019-02-28.
  2. ^ "Professor Elizabeth Anionwu profile: University of West London". uwl.ac.uk. Retrieved 9 December 2017.
  3. ^ "BME Trailblazers in the NHS Professor Elizabeth Anionwu CBE" (PDF). Retrieved 9 December 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Agnew, Thelma (2 October 2016). "An extraordinary life: Elizabeth Anionwu". rcni.com.
  5. ^ "Prof Elizabeth Anionwu to receive a Lifetime achievement award on Divas of colour 2015 – MBW PR". www.mbwpr.com.
  6. ^ "My Book – Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu". elizabethanionwu.co.uk. Retrieved 9 December 2017.
  7. ^ "Publications of Professor Elizabeth Nneka ANIONWU" (PDF). Retrieved 9 December 2017.
  8. ^ "No. 61803". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2016. p. N8.
  9. ^ "Professor Dame Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu, DBE CBE FRCN FQNI PhD". The Queen's Nursing Institute. Retrieved 2019-02-28.