The British Association of Black Surgeons became a registered charity in May 2023. Learn more about our Founder and Founding Members.
In April 2019, Miss Sarah Itam – a Consultant Urological Surgeon – took a sabbatical from full-time work. During this period, she had the opportunity to reflect on her surgical career and the challenges that she had encountered due, in part, to her race and gender. Some of her experiences and the unnecessary obstacles that she had to negotiate might have been easier if there were a formal organisation that could help Black surgeons navigate what can be a difficult path.
Miss Itam realised there was a need for an official body to not only support Black surgeons but also assist surgical organisations in improving their equality, diversity and inclusion strategies. Over the next year, Miss Itam familiarised herself with the charity sector, writing a draft constitution and speaking to trusted mentors with knowledge and experience of non-profit organisations, to help bring her vision of the British Association of Black Surgeons (BABS) to fruition. Her decision to finally set up BABS was crystallised in October 2020, when she participated in a national leadership programme where she was inspired by the speakers to take action.
It was also fortunate that, at this time, there was growing acknowledgement of the challenges specifically linked to ethnicity, race and gender within surgery. This was borne out in the 2021 Diversity Review, led by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC on behalf of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. In addition, statements from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh recognising “there is an issue in surgery when it comes to attracting female, and Black-British doctors, in particular”, further encouraged her to move forward with the association.
Between February and March 2021, Miss Itam approached a number of surgeons, including Professor Frank Chingwundoh MBE and Mr Harry Benjamin-Laing to help identify other surgeons who would be interested in participating in the initiative. On April 28th 2021, she formally presented the idea of BABS to a group of 11 Black consultant surgeons from across the UK at a virtual meeting. Several attendees were already active in improving equality, diversity and inclusion in surgery. In that meeting, Miss Itam shared her vision for BABS and asked those present if they were willing to volunteer their time and resources to help make the organisation a success. This group would form the founding members of BABS, giving support not only with their time and knowledge, but also financially.
BABS Founding Members are as follows:
- Mr Andrew F Alalade – Consultant Neurosurgeon
- Mr Harry Benjamin-Laing – Consultant Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgeon
- Prof Frank Chinegwundoh MBE – Consultant Urological Surgeon
- Mr Charles Corbin – Consultant Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgeon
- Miss Anthea Davy – Consultant Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgeon
- Mrs Beth Donaldson-Hugh – Consultant Neurosurgeon
- Mr Martin Griffiths CBE DL – Consultant Trauma and Vascular Surgeon
- Miss Susannah La-Touche – Consultant Urological Surgeon
- Mr Jonathan Makanjuola – Consultant Urological Surgeon
- Miss Georgette Oni – Consultant Plastics and Reconstructive Surgeon
- Miss Samantha Tross – Consultant Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgeon
First BABS Trustees
Following that first meeting, a board of trustees was formed to manage BABS and its activities. The board consisted of Miss Itam, together with Professor Chinegwundoh MBE, Miss Tross, Mr Alalade, Miss La-Touche and Mrs Donaldson-Hugh. The trustees would have an integral role in launching BABS in the following months. They would spend hours reviewing the draft constitution and its iterations, attending numerous governance meetings, speaking with external societies, utilising their network and contacts and forming links with other surgical organisations. Miss Tross would play a key role in helping to identify and recruit our Patron – Lord Victor Adebowale CBE; as well as BABS Ambassadors Ms Yvonne Coghill CBE and Professor Michael West CBE. One of the founding members, Mr Martin Griffiths CBE DL also took up the role of BABS Ambassador. In addition, trustees liaised and discussed policy with national surgical bodies about the challenges affecting Black individuals, specifically in surgery – from Medical school right through to consultant recruitment. These vital conversations continue to this day.
In October 2021, BABS advertised a number of roles in the association so it could expand its activities. By January 2022, BABS formally welcomed these new committee members on board to help bolster the organisation’s various departments. With great anticipation, BABS held its inaugural conference in November 2022 at The View in the Royal College of Surgeons of England. The platinum sponsor for the meeting was the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. The Royal College of Surgeons of England also supported the historic event, which was attended by over 100 surgeons from around the UK. The quality of the speakers, the session chairs, the BABS officers and the conference volunteers all made the event a huge success. In addition, there was representation from RCS Edinburgh past-president Professor Michael Griffin OBE, RCS England president Mr Tim Mitchell, BABS patron Lord Victor Adebowale CBE and Lord Simon Woolley Kt.
As the organisation grew in size, the trustees prioritised securing charitable status. The Charity Commission granted this status in May 2023. Now formally recognised as a charity organisation, BABS aims to be even more fervent in fulfilling its vision and mission to enrich patient care through diverse and inclusive leadership within the surgical landscape by promoting equality, diversity and inclusion across the profession.
BABS looks forward to more people and other organisations joining them on this journey.