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Barbara Burford was born in Jamaica in 1944. She moved to London in 1955 with her family, where she attended school and went onto study Medicine at London University. Barbara enjoyed a varied career with the NHS, the civil service and later as a consultant to various public-sector organisations. Barbara pioneered learning and social change throughout her career, and promoted equality in all that she did.
Barbara’s career in the NHS began in 1964. Initially, she specialised in postgraduate teaching hospitals, before leading a team at the Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. She ran the pulmonary vascular laboratory there for several years during the 1980s and her team was central to several breakthroughs in heart and lung transplant surgery for infants and children. Later in the 1990s, Barbara moved to Leeds to set up IT systems for the NHS executive, a key achievement of which being Positively Diverse – a programme of guidelines designed to help achieve equality in the NHS. From 1999 Barbara was the director of Equality and Diversity at the Department of Health, beginning many initiatives that are now well established. In 2005, shortly before her retirement, the University of Bradford appointed her Deputy Director of its Centre for Inclusion and Diversity. Barbara then set up a consultancy to carry on her mentoring and coaching work.
During her lifetime Barbara was also a writer, with a particular interest in science fiction and very engaged in feminist politics. She wrote plays, poetry, short stories and a novella. Her play Patterns was produced at the Drill Hall theatre in 1984; the same year that her poetry featured in A Dangerous Knowing – Four Black Women Poets. In 1986 she published The Threshing Floor, a novella and collection of short stories.