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Nigerians In History: Philomena Obiageliuwa Uyanwah


Philomena Obiageliuwa Uyanwah known as Doctor Philomena was born on the 28th of March 28, 1938. She was a Nigerian doctor who was Chief Medical Officer in Biafra during the Nigeria-Biafran war.

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She was a fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and an adviser to the World Health Organization.


Uyanwah was born in Enugu in 1938. Her parents were Martha Nnonye and Patrick Uyanwah. She was the only child of her parents to survive. She went to school in Nigeria before studying at the University of Aberdeen, graduating in 1964.

In 1967, the Nigeria-Biafran started because of the secession of the Eastern Region of Nigeria and called itself Biafra. The people of Biafra were predominantly the Igbo ethnic group of Nigeria. The war ended in a siege and mass starvation.

She gained her doctorate (MD) at the University of Manchester under Prof FA Langley.

In 1977 the University of Aberdeen published her work, The ABH Isoantigens in Cervical Malignancy.

In 1978 she was meant to collect a doctorate from the University of Aberdeen but she was not able to do that.

She became a fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and an adviser to the World Health Organization on cervical cancer.

In 1992, she was worked in Abu Dhabi. She also worked around this time at the King Faisal Military Hospital in Saudi Arabia, in Qatar and finally in Muscat in Oman.


Throughout her life, Dr Philomena (as she was known) was a strong, straightforward, and no-nonsense woman. However, she was always fair and was respected and beloved by her students, colleagues, friends and family.

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Her profound sense of duty led her to return to Biafra 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 at 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 state 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.


Uyanwah died at her home in Baker Street in London on the 23rd of October, 2019 following a stroke. Over 23 years ago, while at Sultan Qaboos Hospital Salalah in Oman, she was doing her ward rounds when the stroke incident took place and she was sent back to the UK where she spent nine months in convalescence at the Royal Devonshire Hospital. After that, she was still unfit for work and she began 23 years of independence at her home.


“Obituary: Dr Philomena Obiageliuwa Uyanwah”. Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists.

Sampson, Ekong (2002). Evergreen Memories of Sir Louis Mbanefo. Lomanc Books.

Uyanwah, Philomena Obiagliuwa (1977). The ABH Isoantigens in Cervical Malignancy. Aberdeen University.


Featured Image Source: RCOG

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Jeremiah Aluwong

Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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