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Inspirational People in Public Health

The Public Health: Tackling Racism and Inequality Network is celebrating Black History Month by honouring the contributions, work and talents of people from Black, Global Majority and other ethnic backgrounds. We asked our Directors of Public Health and Consultants in Public Health to nominate who they have been inspired by on their journeys to senior leadership in public health and to explain why.


Bell Hooks (1952-2021)

Nominated by Dr Will Maimaris, DPH Haringey and Co Chair ADPH London

One of my inspirations is Bell Hooks. Bell Hooks was an African-American author, thinker, academic and activist. She died in 2021, and her influence on me is through her incredibly powerful and insightful writing. She has written many books on the importance of compassion, solidarity, listening and understanding in tackling misogyny and racism.

Particularly powerful for me is her writing and thinking on masculinity, and the role men can play in making a better fairer world. Her work really captures the importance of better relationships in improving our wellbeing and tackling discrimination. If you haven’t read any of Bell Hooks work I would strongly recommend All About Love and The Will to Change, both of which challenged me to examine my behaviour and my public health practice in a different way.

Professor Camara Phyllis Jones

Nominated by Dr Catherine Mbema, Director of Public Health, Lewisham and ADPHL improving ethnicity data collection and research lead

I was hugely inspired by Professor Jones when I was part of a discussion panel following a lecture that she gave as part of the Faculty of Public Health distinguished lecture series.

Her career history and dedication to addressing the impact of racism on health through her work has been exemplary. She is also able to use powerful storytelling and allegory to convey key messages about the impacts of racism on health to a range of audiences (look up her TED talks!). I hope to have an ounce of the impact that she has had by the end of my career.

Dr Ugo Okoli

Nominated by Dr Nike Arowobusoye, Consultant in Public Health, Richmond and Wandsworth Councils

I first met Ugo in 1998 when we were doing our MSc at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and she became my Public Health mentor. Ugo became the first black African female Director of Public Health and Medical Director, working at Enfield Primary Care Trust from May 2003 to Dec 2009. Ugo is inspirational and a great Public Health role model. Ugo is currently the Deputy Country Director for Jhpiego Nigeria, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, USA and also leads on maternal health, newborn and child health quality of care.

Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu

Assistant Director-General for the Division of Health Emergency Intelligence and Surveillance Systems in the Emergencies Programme

Nominated by Dr Catherine Mbema, Director of Public Health, Lewisham and ADPHL improving ethnicity data collection and research lead.

Dr Ihekweazu, is a great inspiration to me as he trained in the UK but has made a transition into global health to make significant contributions in the country of his birth, Nigeria, and now as part of the World Health Organisation. In Nigeria, he set up the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control as its founding Director that played a significant role in the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Kevin Fenton, CBE

Regional Director OHID London, Regional Public Health Director NHS London, Statutory Health Advisor to the Mayor of London, President of the United Kingdom Faculty of Public Health

Nominated by Dr Natalie Daley, Consultant in Public Health, Richmond and Wandsworth and  ADPHL diversifying the workforce and systems leadership lead.

I’ve always admired Professor Fenton, as a Black Caribbean/Jamaican doctor as there are relatively few of us in the UK, particularly at his level of seniority. As someone who has a particular interest in sexual health public health, I’ve been inspired by the work he has done in the prevention of sexually transmitted infections and HIV. He is also one of the reasons that I used to want to work at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US!

Dr Ike Anya

Nominated by Dr Sandra Husbands, Director of Public Health, City of London & Hackney, ADPHL trust and cohesion lead 

We started as Public Health consultants together in Hammersmith & Fulham. He founded TEDx Euston with Chikwe Ihekweazu and co-founded Nigeria Healthwatch and EpiAfric with him, as well. Most recently, he’s published a very well-received memoir about doing his medical training in Nigeria. Maybe we’ll see it serialised on telly one day!

Professor john a powell

Nominated by Dr Sandra Husbands, Director of Public Health, City of London & Hackney, ADPHL trust and cohesion lead 

Professor john a. powell (he does not capitalise his name, in the belief that we should be “part of the universe, not over it as capitals signify”) is an internationally recognised expert in the areas of civil rights, civil liberties, structural racism, housing, poverty, and democracy.

He leads the UC Berkeley Othering & Belonging Institute and holds the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion, Professor of Law and Professor of African American Studies and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

He so clearly and compassionately articulates issues around othering and belonging and how we can build bridges between groups, to increase belonging and so improve health. It’s something I was thinking about for a long time, but had little understanding of, before I came across his work.

Dr Harold Moody (1882-1947)

Nominated by Dr Bimpe Oki, Consultant in Public Health, Lambeth and ADPHL Co-production with communities lead.

Dr Harold Moody (Medicine, 1910) was a prominent humanitarian, anti-racist campaigner and civil rights activist. The son of a pharmacist, Harold Arundel Moody (1882–1947) was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and travelled to England in 1904 to study.

I have been inspired by Dr Moody because of his determination and the way he channelled the adversity he faced into making a positive impact in society. His tireless efforts are thought to have influenced the Race Relations Act (1965).  Despite being denied employment for 3 years, he did not give up on being a medical doctor and set up his own practice.  Although publicly he may not be recognised as a Public Health professional, to me he is one of the first Public Health advocates, who used his medical background and the understanding from his own experience to campaign for the rights of those facing racial injustices. He challenged not just the racial discrimination in health but also some of the wider determinants like education, fair wages, housing and good community relations.

Professor Adetokunboh Lucas, 1931 – 2020

Nominated by Dr Nike Arowobusoye, Consultant in Public Health, Richmond and Wandsworth Councils

Professor Lucas  was a great advocate for Public Health and held an Honorary Fellowship of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Harvard School of Public Health Alumni Award of Merit.

He served as the first honorary President of the Alumni Association of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for 11 years. Professor Lucas co-authored ‘A Short Textbook of Public Health for the Tropics’ published in 1973.

I reached out at the very start of my public health journey and asked for a reference to LSHTM. Professor Lucas gave me one based on my CV, supported and encouraged me as needed, challenged the unconscious bias I was shown. Professor Lucas was one of the heroes in my adult life and career.

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