Sarah Ash, Health and Social Care and Child Development Subject Advisor
During Black History Month we highlight inspiring black people who have made a difference to our lives. In this updated blog, I will share some stories of inspiring women, past and present, who have worked to make a difference to the lives of others.
These include inspiring healthcare professionals who have individually shaken up the system and opened doors for Black people, and a woman who has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of children’s issues.
Monica Lewin was the first Jamaican woman to become a fellow of The Royal College of Surgeons of England. She was born in Jamaica in 1926, and studied medicine at the Royal Free Hospital in London on a Jamaican government scholarship. She was a surgeon and physician in Brighton, at the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital and at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Women’s Hospital.
Monica returned to Jamaica for a while and worked during the unrest that took place there during the 1960s. Her work was dangerous as it was a violent time, and she treated many gunshot wounds and injuries from machetes. Eventually she returned to the UK to work as a consultant urologist at the North Middlesex Hospital. She retired in 1988 and died in 1998.
To come to the UK as a young black woman takes courage and it is remarkable that she became the first Jamaican woman to become a fellow of the The Royal College of Surgeons.
Anthea Davy is the first black British woman to be appointed as a Consultant in Trauma and Orthopaedics in the UK. She is also a member of the Women in Surgery Forum. Anthea was one of thousands of people who responded to the Royal College of Surgeon’s survey on diversity in October 2020. The aim of the survey was to understand about the diversity of leadership at the college, and it informed an independent review being led by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC.
Anthea’s contributions to the survey is helping the Royal College of Surgeons become aware of how it deals with race and ethnicity in its members. One of the things that Anthea values most as a surgeon is the relationship between the surgeon and the patient. She said that ‘to have someone say, “I trust you, I want you to operate on me” always means a lot to me.’
Annie Brewster came to the UK from the Caribbean as a young child and grew up in South London in the 1860s. She worked as a nurse at what was then called the London Hospital (now the Royal London Hospital) in Whitechapel for twenty years. She was known as ‘Nurse Ophthalmic’ due to her skill in treating patients with eye conditions, and she later became the nurse in charge of the ophthalmic wards.
Annie was one of the first Afro-Caribbean nurses who worked in Britain during this time. In 2018 she received public recognition when her photograph was projected onto the side of the old Royal London Hospital building as part of the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the NHS.
Tryphena Anderson was one of the Windrush generation who responded when the government reached out to the Commonwealth countries to come to England and work in the new National Health Service. She was 19 years old when she made that journey by boat to Liverpool and probably couldn’t have imagined that she would become the first black person to receive a bursary to train as a health visitor. Her career started as a junior nurse, and she then retrained as a psychiatric nurse and then a midwife. It was after this that she was given the bursary and made a difference to the lives of many young children.
Floella Benjamin is a peer in the House of Lords and Chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee. After many years as a children’s television presenter, writer and filmmaker, she now spends her time raising awareness of children’s issues both in the UK and around the world. Her ‘Touching Success’ initiative is designed to motivate disadvantaged children, to raise their aspirations and encourage social mobility.
Floella was instrumental in the campaign for a Minister for Children to be appointed. This position was put in place in 2003 to oversee government policy relating to children. She is Vice President of Barnardo’s and has also worked with other charitable organisations including Save the Children, Friends of the Young Deaf and WATCH (What about the Children).
Floella is also the author of ‘Coming to England’, which tells the story of how she and her family moved from Trinidad to England. The book is used to teach modern history in schools and universities and was selected as a Book of the Year 2016 by the Guardian. In 2020 a picture book version was published for 3 to 5 year olds. An amazing life of achievement.
These are just a few of the many black people who work have influenced life chances for others. Through our Cambridge Technical and Cambridge National Health and Social Care qualifications students are taught about the importance of giving patients dignity, treating patients with respect, showing kindness and being patient, putting others before themselves. By sharing these stories you might inspire your students to realise that they can make a difference, and that the difference they make matters.
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Before joining OCR in 2018, Sarah was a teacher and Subject Lead of Health and Social Care in secondary schools and sixth forms in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. She has also worked in a social care setting for young people aged 16-18 transitioning from living in care to becoming independent, which was challenging, but rewarding work. At OCR Sarah has been involved in the redevelopment of Cambridge Nationals in Health and Social Care and Child Development, and the redevelopment of the L3 Health and Social Care Cambridge Technical.