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Obituary: Philomena Obiageliuwa Uyanwah

Dr Philomena Obiageliuwa Uyanwah, MB, Ch.B, MD, FMCOG, FRCOG, who has died age 81, was an Obsterician and Gynaecologist.

She was once the Chief Medical Officer for Biafra, during the Biafran War/Nigerian Civil War. She was widely published and was an adviser to the WHO on cancer of the cervix.

Dr Philomena Uyanwah, was born in Enugu, Nigeria. She was the daughter of Patrick Uyanwah and Martha Nnonye Uyanwah. She attended the Holy Rosary Convent, Enugu, Queens College, Lagos and eventually Aberdeen University, Scotland from 1958-64.

Throughout her life Dr. Philomena (as she was known) was a strong, straightforward, no nonsense woman. However, she was always fair and was respected and beloved by her students, colleagues, friends and family. Her profound sense of duty led her to return to Nigeria to serve the Biafran war effort, finally returning to Scotland in 1969 on a red cross refugee passport with her son, Chinwuba Akpom. Dr. Uyanwah worked almost exclusively in academic institutions. Her training in research work started in 1970 as a research assistant in Aberdeen University under Dr. K J Dennis and culminated in her work at St. Mary’s, Manchester University under Professor F A Langley for her doctorate degree. She won the Pfizer Fellowship Award in 1979 and between 1979 - 1987 she was the Deputy Head of the Oncology unit in the Dept of Obstetrics & Gynaecology in Lagos University, as well as working for the Nigerian government, recruiting medical personnel worldwide and also an adviser to the WHO on cancer of the cervix. In 1987, she won the WHO Senior Research Fellowship Award, which was tenable at the WHO Centre for Cancer research in Lyons, France.

Dr Uyanwah was recruited to the middle East in the late 1980s, where she worked as a senior consultant in the Ministry of Health, Abu Dhabi, UAE, King Faisal Military Hospital Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Doha, Qatar and finally in Muscat, Oman.

Whilst doing her morning rounds in Sultan Qaboos hospital, Muscat in April 1996, Dr. Philomena unexpectedly suffered a severe stroke and collapsed; she remained in a coma for eleven days. Thanks to the generousity of the Sultan of Oman and His Excellency Dr. Ali Moosa, she was returned to London and treated at the Devonshire Hospital for nine months. She was unable to continue her medical career and retired to her home in Baker Street. Her aforementioned strength of will kept her independent for twenty-three years after the stroke. Her funeral was held on Friday, November 22nd 2019. She is survived by her son, Mr. Chinwuba Akpom. Her ashes will be returned to Onitsha, Nigeria, where she will be buried alongside her mother, Martha Nnonye Uyanwah.

Philomena Obiageliuwa Uyanwah, born 28 March 1938; died 23 October 2019

February 2020