Born February 21, 1906, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Agnes Savage had a short but eventful medical career. She holds the distinction of becoming the first West African woman to graduate from a university to practice medicine. Savage would be the first of several Black woman contemporaries to pioneer the medical field–several being alumni of the University of Edinburgh.
Her father was a Nigerian doctor and her mother was Scottish, her family originally being from Sierra Leone.
Education and Early Career
Agnes Yewande Savage passed the exams for the Royal College of Music in 1919. She was awarded a scholarship to George Watson’s Ladies College. After attaining the General Proficiency in Class Work, she would attain the country’s Higher Education Leaving Certificate. This allowed for her to attend a larger college and her choice was the University of Edinburgh.
Always the strong student, Agnes Savage had a stellar academic career at Edinburgh. She would perform extremely well in all subjects and won several awards including becoming the first woman in Edinburgh’s long history to be awarded a medal in Forensic Medicine. Savage would graduate in 1929 but not before gaining the Dorothy Gilfillan Memorial Prize for being the best woman graduate. Her brother, Richard Gabriel Akinwande Savage graduated from the college in 1926, also in the medical field.
Savage’s early career didn’t see her make many moves due to discrimination in the field. It wasn’t until 1931 when she received a much better contract while in the colonial service thanks to intervention from Headmaster Alec Fraser of Achimota College. During her time in the colonial service, she served as Junior Medical Officer. She would join Achimota as a medical officer but also taught classes in the field.
Finishing up with Achimota with much more experience, she began working for Korle Bu Hospital via the colonial service. Here, she received better pay and was put in charge of several departments associated with the maternity ward. Agnes Savage would also continue training future nurses and was over the formation of Korle Bu Nurses Training College. This would be one of her last great contributions to the medical field in West Africa as she retired in 1947. She would pass away 17 years later of a stroke in Scotland.