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Pioneer Women In Healthcare: Dr. Elizabeth Abimbola Awoliyi

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Elizabeth Abimbola Awoliyi, MBE, OFR, was the first female physician to practice in Nigeria. She was also the first West African woman to earn a license of Royal Surgeon in Dublin. In 1938, Elizabeth Awoliyi became the second West African woman to qualify as an orthodox-medicine trained physician after Agnes Yewande Savage who graduated from medical school in 1929. She was the second president of the National Council of Women’s Societies of Nigeria from 1964 until her death in 1971.

She earned her medical degree in 1938 from the University of Dublin, Cafreys College. She graduated from Dublin with first class honors, including a medal in Medicine and distinction in Anatomy. She became the first West African woman to be awarded a licentiate of Royal Surgeon in Dublin. She was a member of the Royal College of Physicians (United Kingdom) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology and a Diplomate of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.


Elizabeth Awoliyi was the pioneer president of the Lagos branch of the National Council of Women Societies and a member of the national committee of the organization. As a member, she contributed to various policies and activities of the women’s organization. She negotiated for the gift of a national headquarters located at Tafawa Balewa Square and was a consultant to the organization’s family planning clinic which later became the planned parenthood federation of Nigeria


During her life time, She was awarded the following honours
• Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
• Iya Abiye of Lagos
• Iyalaje of Oyo Empire
• Nigerian National Honor – Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).

Dr Awoliyi passed away on the 14th of September 1971 at age 62. A memorial hospital was built in her honour in the late 1970s. The Dr. Abimbola Awoliyi Memorial Hospital is currently located in Lagos Island, Lagos, Nigeria.

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