Wendy Olayiwola, Senior Midwifery Manager and site lead of the BME Network at Newham Hospital, has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the 2021 New Year’s Honours.
Wendy, one of six children, was born in Nigeria. After moving to England both her parents, who were healthcare professionals, began working in the NHS. Spurred on by her family and friends who all worked in healthcare, Wendy decided she too would pursue this path. In (2000) Wendy qualified in nursing at Buckinghamshire Chiltern University and then trained as a midwife in City University before taking on a Masters in Public Health at the University of East London.
When discussing her decision to train as a midwife, Wendy said it was ‘the best decision I ever made career-wise’.
“I was driven to choose this career path out of a fierce passion to ensure each woman I care for can have the best possible preconception, antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal care. It is utterly critical in ensuring women and their families have positive health outcomes.”
Now some decades later, Wendy has an impressive 24 years in the NHS under her belt, with 15 of them spent at Barts Health NHS Trust. Last month Wendy was named among the World Health Organisation's (WHO) '100 outstanding nurse and midwife leaders' for her contribution and achievements in the field of midwifery.
In addition to her work on the shop floor, Wendy is also an honorary lecturer at universities on public health topics and a motivational speaker. In the research field, Wendy has co-authored articles in professional midwifery journals, including 'Talking to men about FGM' and 'Reducing the incidence of stillbirths in Black women'.
Among her achievements Wendy is most proud of her work and involvement in improving care for BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) mothers. As part of this aim, Wendy has been involved in national roundtable discussions to help change and improve the care provided for BAME mothers.
“Studies have shown that in comparison to white women, black women are almost five times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth related causes, and Asian women nearly twice as likely. Much of my work involves working with colleagues to improve our care offering so we can help mitigate this stat and reduce the mortality rate for BAME mothers receiving maternity care."
Commenting on her BEM Award, Wendy said:
“I feel so incredibly humbled and honoured and I want to dedicate this award to all nurses and midwives, who are working harder than ever especially now. Receiving a BEM will only drive me to work harder at my inclusion work and being the best midwife I can be. I really hope I can inspire other colleagues, especially my BAME peers, to take up roles in the NHS and lead in what they are passionate about, as I will continue to.”