Chief DR. (MRS.) ELIZABETH ABIMBOLA AWOLIYI is Nigeria’s (and West Africa’s) first female doctor/physician.
She was born on November 11, 1910 on Lagos Island to Mr. David Evaristo Akerele and Mrs. Rufina Oyinkan Akerele. She was the fourth child in a family of seven. She started elementary school at the St. Mary’s Convent in Lagos State and from there to Queen’s College, Lagos and then proceeded to Dublin, Ireland to study medicine in 1929 after getting the Cambridge Examination Certificate. She qualified as a medical doctor in 1936. She graduated from the University of Dublin, Ireland with first class honors, including a medal in medicine and a distinction in anatomy.
She was the first West African female medical doctor with Licentiate of the Royal Surgeon (Dublin) and bagged a diploma in gynaecology and obstetrics at the Trinity College, Dublin. She was a member of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP). Once a junior medical officer at the Massey Street Hospital, she later became the Chief Consultant and Medical Director between 1960 and 1969.
She was a philanthropist and a very religious woman; she belonged to a number of charities and organizations, including Girls Association of Nigeria, The Catholic Women’s Association, Old Girl’s Association of St. Mary’s Convent School, St. Anthony’s Guild, Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos, among others.
She was awarded a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE), Iya Abiye of Lagos State (1962) and the Iyalaje of Oyo Empire. She was also awarded the Nigerian national Honour, Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).
She was married to Dr. S. O. Awoliyi, who was also a medical doctor and later the Chief Medical Adviser to the Federal Government. The had two children. Dr. S. O. Awooliyi died in 1965.
She passed on at 61, on September 14, 1971.
The novel ‘A Return to Life’ was written by her son, Tunji Awoliyi, in her honour. She is also mentioned in the book “Nigerian heroes and heroines: and other issues in citizenship education”, by Godwin Chukwuemeka Ezeh.
Dr. Abimbola Awoliyi Memorial Hospital is located in Lagos Island, Lagos, Nigeria.