Prof. Olufemi Owolabi Akinyanju is the Founder and Current Chairman of the Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria. His efforts eventually beget the National Sickle Cell Centre in Lagos. He has made numerous publications and presentations on sickle cell. Prof. is also a member of World Health Organisation (WHO)’s expert committee on hereditary disease.
He is currently a Trustee of the Nigerian Society for Haematology and Blood Transfusion and he is advising the WHO on the introduction of sickle cell programming in developing countries.
Prof. Akinyanju grew up in Lagos, where he began primary school education in the early 1940s at the CMS School on Broad Street, behind the Cathedral Church of Christ, then gained admission to Government College, Ughelli where he underwent secondary education. In October 1958, he gained direct admission into St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, London, from where he graduated MB, BS (London) in 1963.
He remained in England to undergo Residency training in Internal Medicine specialty, and succeeded in obtaining the postgraduate diplomas MRCP (Edinburgh) & MRCP (London) in 1967. He earned the MD (London) post graduate degree in 1981 after submitting a thesis titled “Bacterial Infection in Sickle Cell Disease in Lagos, Nigeria.”
This celebrated professor joined Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and College of Medicine of the University of Lagos (CMUL) in 1967, where he encountered sickle cell disorder (SCD) patients and families, who were poorly informed about the disorder. This made him decide to focus on improving their knowledge, health status and longevity.
Hence, he went to Canada, to undertake a University of Toronto Fellowship in Clinical Haematology from 1970-1972. On return to LUTH, he created a dedicated adult Sickle Cell Clinic to better serve patients with SCD. In 1979, the University of Lagos appointed him Professor of Medicine. In 1984, he resuscitated the Sickle Cell Club Lagos, Nigeria and in 1985, he was appointed Honorary Adviser to the WHO on Hereditary Haemoglobin Disorders.
He subsequently attended numerous WHO meetings, study groups and delivered several papers at conferences and has written over 90 publications from 1971 to date, in medical/scientific journals, and a book targeted at persons and families with SCD, titled “How To Live with Sickle Cell Disorder”
He founded the Federation of Sickle Cell Clubs of Nigeria in 1991 and the Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria (SCFN) in 1994. The SCFN developed the iconic National Sickle Cell Centre (the first comprehensive Sickle Cell Centre in Africa) opposite LUTH. The Centre’s foundation stone was laid in 1998 by General Muhammadu Buhari, who was then Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund and the Centre was commissioned for use in 2007 by President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He was honoured with the Chieftaincy titles of Otun Are of Ife in 1986 and the Ajiroba of Awe in 1994. A national honour, Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) was conferred on him in 2006.
In 2004, the WHO appointed Professor Akinyanju an Expert on the Panel of the Genomic Research Centre. At the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of LUTH/CMUL in Nov 2004, the Old Medical Students of the CMUL presented a PHYSICIAN ROLE MODEL AWARD to Prof. Olu Akinyanju, “in deep appreciation of his outstanding contribution to their Medical Education and Training”.
Over the years, he has received many awards in recognition of his efforts to Sickle Cell Management. Some of them include: Rotary Club of Oregun’s Excellence Award Certificate (1999), The Nigerian Society for Haematology & Blood Transfusion Award for his Contributions in the field of Haematology (2007), The International Inner Wheel’s Distinguished Merit Service Award (2012), Nigeria Investment Newspaper’s Order Of Merit Award For Service To Humanity (2013), 2016 Nigerian Health Care Excellence Award, 2018 Excellence Award by Staff of the Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria and 2020 Nigerian Medical Association’s Lifetime Healthcare Achievement Award.