Breaking through despite the odds

Posted on 2 October 2017

Department welcomes Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu to present public lecture

The Department is delighted to welcome Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu to the Universityon Tuesday 3rd October to present a public lecture as part of the University’s Black History month.

Many people will be extremely surprised to read that Dame Elizabeth spent her first nine years of life in Birmingham Children's Homes, run by Catholic nuns. Her parents met as students at Cambridge University but never married. Elizabeth's mother Mary was studying Classics at Newnham College when she became pregnant. Her devoutly Catholic family were horrified and this was compounded when it became clear that the baby was mixed-race.

In her talk, Dame Elizabeth will explore factors that led her to overturn this difficult start in life and achieve the many successes in her career. This will include the motivation behind campaigning for improved sickle cell services within the NHS and for a statue of Mary Seacole. She has always strived to combine a community development approach within her academic work. In 2001 she was proud to have co-authored The Politics of Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia with Professor Karl Atkin AcSS, our Head of the Department.

Dame Elizabeth said: “I am so looking forward to visiting the University of York to deliver a talk as part of their Open Lecture series. It will also be a wonderful opportunity to meet students and staff."

Professor Karl Atkin, Head of Department said: “It is a pleasure to welcome Elizabeth to the Department of Health Sciences. Her struggles and achievements have real resonance for present challenges facing nursing and midwifery. She provides an excellent role model and I look forward to introducing her to colleagues at the University of York.”

Tickets for the lecture can still be booked via

Listen to the interview with Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu below.