Justus Akinsanya

Nurse educationist and pioneer of 'bio-nursing'
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The Independent Online

Justus Akinbayo Akinsanya, nursing educationist: born Lagos 31 December 1936; Deputy Secretary/Registrar (education), Nursing Council of Nigeria 1975-76, Acting Secretary/Registrar 1977-78; Lecturer, Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu 1976-77; Professor of Nursing, Dorset Institute of Higher Education 1985-89; Academic Dean and Pro-Vice Chancellor, Anglia Polytechnic University 1989-96; married 1967 Cynthia Marcelle (three sons, one daughter); died London 11 August 2005.

Justus Akinsanya was a bow-tie-wearing, Rover-driving professor of nursing who brought a new concept to nursing and a new word to the English language - "bio-nursing". An international nurse of the highest order, he was the first black member of the English National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting and, as Acting Registrar of the Nurses Council of Nigeria and later with the Nigerian Ministry of Health, processed nurse-training programmes to meet the needs of the varied communities in Nigeria and West Africa.

Born in Lagos in 1936, Akinsanya came to Britain in the late 1950s, intending to study economics. Instead, he qualified as a registered fever nurse at Abergele Sanatorium in North Wales and then took his general nurse training at Crumpsall Hospital, Manchester, where the matron, Humber Briggs, was supportive of male nurses, when her fellow matrons in the South very much regarded them as a minority.

Advised to become a nurse teacher, Akinsanya had first to study for A-levels. Later he qualified as a sister tutor, but turned down the offer of a post at Hammersmith Hospital School of Nursing, because he had the chance to read for a degree at Chelsea College, London University. He obtained a BSc Honours, only to find no hospital seemed to want a graduate tutor. Peggy Nuttall, the campaigning editor of the Nursing Times, persuaded him to write an article, "Tutors Wanted: graduates need not apply", and as a result he was offered a tutor's job at King's College Hospital, London.

Akinsanya was now launched on an academic career which would lead to his becoming in 1985 one of the early professors of nursing, at the Dorset Institute of Higher Education (now Bourne-mouth University), and in 1989-96 Dean of Anglia Polytechnic University.

Akinsanya returned to Nigeria in 1975 when he was recruited by the Nigerian Nursing Council. Two years later, he became its Acting Registrar, being subsequently seconded to the Nigerian ministry of health. However, not wanting a career as an administrator, he returned to nurse education in the UK.

At a time when British nurses were in danger of going the way that American nurses had gone in the 1940s and 1950s - following social science - Akinsanya reminded them that the biological sciences are an important component of their work. His concept of bio-nursing was based on the research work he had undertaken for his doctorate, published as Knowledge of the Life Sciences as a Basis for Practice (1984). In 1988 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing. In 1991, Akinsanya published the results of a major national study of attitudes of nurses and their teachers to Aids he had carried out in Who Will Care?

Akinsanya said that he never experienced racism himself, although as a researcher for the Commission on Racial Equality, he found it in the NHS. He was the first black nurse to be elected to the English National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting, serving from 1988 to 1993.

Believing that the best knowledge is shared knowledge, Akinsanya, a born communicator, enthusiastically attended conferences all over the world. He never let illness stop him. When kidney failure led to his retirement from Anglia Polytechnic University in 1996, he carried out his own dialysis and eventually had a transplant.

Laurence Dopson