Dr Ankica Sajbic Sukunda

Areas of Interest

Health Care, International

Honorary Award

Honorary Master of Arts, 2004


Dr Ankica Sajbic Sukunda is a learning disabilities specialist at Croatia's Kraljevica Specialist Hospital. When the former Yugoslavia was overtaken by war in 1991, she was working as an allergy specialist. As the conflict spread, many learning disability hospitals were forced to close, resulting in an influx of clients to the Kraljevica Specialist Hospital on Croatia's Northwest coast. Ill-equipped and lacking specialist training for meeting the needs of their new clients, Dr Ana and her team set about their task with a singular determination that was to result in the creation of one of the finest units for the care of young learning-disabled people in Croatia. Her association with our University began in 1996, as part of Mission Croatia. Since then, many members of our staff and students have spent time at Kraljevica Specialist Hospital, helping to improve the facility, to train staff and also sharing in a unique learning experience.

In 2004 Dr Ankica Sajbic Sukunda was awarded an Honorary Master of Arts.


"The Senate of Anglia Polytechnic University has great pleasure in recommending the awards of Honorary Masters of Arts degrees to both Dr Ana Sajbic-Sukunda and Sr Katarina Gudac, better known at APU and especially by all who have ever been involved in Mission Croatia, as Dr Ana and Sr Katarina, respectively. They are famous as seekers of human welfare, who consistently put compassion before tradition and caring concern before political correctness and today we are here to honour them.

These awards are made in recognition of their outstanding commitment to bringing comfort and relief to their clients who are invariably sick and suffering in body, mind and spirit, vulnerable and marginalized... and to visitors to their Kraljevica hospital and to their country, a very special welcome and warmth. They are the ultimate altruists, role models par excellence for every student, every teacher and indeed for each one of us here today, who claim membership of a concerned human society.

Ana was born on the island of Rab in the Adriatic Sea, just off the Dalmatian coast and attended high-school in Rijeka on the mainland, where she was recognized as an outstanding student. She went on to read medicine at the famous Rijeka Medical School, eventually starting her professional career as a Head of Department in the Hospital for Allergies and Rehabilitation in Kraljevica. Here, besides clinical responsibility, her work also involved considerable commitment to the management and promotion of the specialist centre which, over some years, has begun to grow its medical reputation. One outcome of this has been the appointment, last autumn, of Ana as Chief of the Centre for Rehabilitation Fortica-Kraljevica. Because she has, herself, benefited from continuing professional education, she encourages her staff in this, as well as in keeping up-to-date in developments in the care of clients with learning disabilities in centres of excellence in Croatia and abroad. Apart from her native Serbo-Croat, Ana is also able to speak and write in English and German and is a keen swimmer and skier.

Allergy specialists Ana and Katarina received into their care an influx of learning-disabled clients sent to them during the 1991 Balkans Conflict. Yet, they responded in characteristic fashion, by the care and concern they showed to this new client group. Over the past thirteen years they have created a centre of excellence at Fortica-Kraljevica, transforming their sea-bathing hospital for children with allergic conditions into a leading centre for Learning Disability Care Rehabilitation and growing the hospital's reputation across their nation. During the past nine years they have been supported by International Rotary's Convoy of Hope and by groups from various foreign countries, including what has become the annual working visit of the Mission Croatia team of APU students led by our University Chaplain Ivor Moody and Principal Lecturer in Health Care Practice Jan Hancock.

Indeed, the Mission Croatia team has helped to improve the environment by assisting in the renovation of the hospital site. This restoration includes painting, cleaning and general maintenance. Also, six years ago the first nurse-teachers joined the team and a new era was born! Ana and Katarina paid a brief visit to the UK, which provided the insight they needed in the face of a difficult and unsteady post-war and post-communist economic and political system. Through the honing of their gifts of persistence and determination they have transformed the institution into a home for their clients. The love they have for their clients is almost palpable and their selfless commitment is well demonstrated by their contribution of a third of their personal salaries to the costs of patient care. Also, they are most firm friends of APU and offer staff and students the unique opportunity of involvement in a project that would daunt many Western 'leaders of industry.' In return, APU has offered hard work and professional support, although the Mission team say they receive much, much more than they give. Indeed, each APU volunteer benefits the richer for the experience, to the extent that a number of APU alumni have kept up close links with the hospital and continue to make independent return visits.

It is for these reasons, therefore, that I invite you, Mr Chairman, to confer on Dr Ana Sajbic-Sukunda and Sr Katarina Gudac, Honorary Masters of Arts degrees of this University."