Manju Bhavnani

Manju was born in India in 1947 where she was educated at a Catholic boarding school. She came to the UK in 1958, aged 11, and attended a  grammar school in London. She attended medical school in Bristol and was one of 12 females, and the only Indian woman, on her course.  After medical school, Manju did an elective in America and returned to work as a House Officer in Taunton and in Bristol. She decided that she wanted to specialize in haematology. She then returned to India for three years, and with the help of her supervisor in Bristol, who recommended the pieces of equipment she should take, set up a small lab, looked at samples and saw patients in the evenings. When she returned to the UK she found work at a hospital in London, passed her MRCPath, and successfully applied to take part in an NHS-run part-time women’s training scheme giving her good grounding for the consultant post she eventually secured in Wigan. Manju remained in Wigan until she retired and ran a clinical haematology service, advising GPs and hospital doctors about interpreting blood samples, set up clinics for her patients, and ran the haematology laboratory. She introduced, early on, Nurse Practitioners into the Service, and developed chemotherapy services locally, so that patients would not have to travel for treatment. In addition to working in a District General Hospital, she wrote many research papers, and presented them at national and international haematology meetings. She was Clinical Director of Pathology, was Lead Clinician for Cancer in the Trust, and National Clinical Lead for Haematological Cancer. She was awarded an OBE for services to medicine in 2006.

A helping hand

I hadn't got a job and I'd just had a baby, so what I did − such a cheek – was that I went to the local hospital where my parents lived, and knocked on the door of the Haematologist, and said 'I want to do haematology, I need  to study for the exam, can you help me?' The woman Consultant was absolutely brilliant .She pointed out that because I was Indian, I might have difficulty in getting a Consultant post, and because she was also from abroad, she was very understanding. She said she could see my potential.  She made me do essays and marked them and whenever there was a chance to speak or do a piece of research, she made me do it and present it. I was only a locum but as a result of that, I actually became more confident in haematology, and when I took the exam, I passed it.

Manju Bhavnani

India