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A HIDDEN HISTORY:
African Women and the
British Health Service

1930–2000

Dr Mary Adi

Dr Mary Adi is a retired doctor from Nigeria. She began her training at the University College Hospital in Ibadan, which was affiliated with the University College in London. In England, she worked as a midwife at City of London Hospital and St Mary’s Hospital. Dr Adi and her husband later returned to Nigeria to provide accessible healthcare to the citizens and build their own practice. Dr Adi is a member of the West African College of Physicians (MWACP).

CAREER

"Most of my experiences were very positive because I actually enjoyed midwifery. Seeing mothers deliver healthy babies and helping them – it made me happy. It was a positive experience."


RACISM

"If there was an advertisement for accommodation, and [you applied], they would invite you for an interview. If you now went for an interview and they found that you are black they [would] say, “Oh I'm sorry, the flat has been taken yesterday or this morning,” they just tell you a lie because they don't want you to live in their houses. So it was a common thing in those days and some people really felt it."


COMMUNITY IN NIGERIA

"Well my husband was a good doctor, he was very much liked. We used to go to the village every month, my husband and I, then [also with] some of our children, to help the people there and treat them medically. Sometimes free of charge, sometimes for a little money. So they were very excited to see that we did that every month. The people wouldn't have time, [or] wouldn't have the means to go to the hospital. Every month we would go to the village – my husband and I, and kids who are in the medical field- to help."


INTERVIEWER: So your husband wanted to come back and work in the training hospitals in Nigeria?

DR MARY: "To train medical students, so that we [can] develop our own country. He was offered a job in America. We had lived in America shortly after leaving England, but he rejected it. So we were just travelling on short courses, but not to go live there for long."


"Nigeria it was a very interesting place at that time. More than it is now. It was important to us to make sure that, since we worked well, it was important. Now the trend is for many people to go and live outside. But then, we that studied abroad would get to come back and develop the country."


CHARITY

"I don’t want to join politics. I just do some work, like in our church, I’m in charge of sanitation, making sure that the place is kept clean. I’m on the committee of a children's home. If parents can’t take care of the child for whatever reason, you bring the child to us. That is what the home is all about. We don’t deliver them, they are brought in. Maybe when they are a few months old, or even after birth when they baby is stabilized. That is why we employ a trained nurse, to make sure the babies are looked after, and there are doctors to examine the children to make sure they are okay. That’s what we are doing."


RETIREMENT

"After I qualified as a doctor, I specialised in public health. After my husband died, I took over his practice, but my children said to me, 'Mommy, Enough is enough. No more. No more serious work for you'. So they came and closed down my practice. As a matter of fact, I asked somebody the other day to go to some health centres to find out what they require so that I can donate some of my hospital equipment to them."

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