A Public Health England director has been named the second most influential black person in Britain for his work leading the fight against coronavirus.

Professor Kevin Fenton, London regional director for Public Health England, features on the Powerlist 2021 alongside Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton, footballer Marcus Rashford and grime artist Stormzy.

The medical expert, who was ranked just behind the six-time F1 world champion and ahead of Stormzy, is being recognised for leading the capital’s response to coronavirus, including minimising the impact on BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities.

F1 champion Lewis Hamilton
F1 champion Lewis Hamilton (PA)

His role at PHE involves working closely with the capital’s public health leaders and borough council chairs in how best to respond to coronavirus, alongside advising London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Professor Fenton, who was a leading practitioner tackling HIV and Aids issues for three decades prior to his appointment to becoming London’s regional director at PHE in April 2020, said he feels “truly honoured” to be included in the Powerlist.

He said: “Highlighting and appreciating the achievements of BAME individuals is so important for inspiring younger generations and advancing racial equality in our workplaces and in society.

“I have been lucky enough to experience support and encouragement from mentors and peers throughout my career, which combined with hard work, has enabled me to take advantage of opportunities and deal with challenges along the way.

“Sadly, that structure of support is too often not there for many BAME researchers and health professionals.

“That is why I feel passionately about paying forward, guiding and mentoring others throughout my work.”

Professor Fenton joined the Health Protection Agency (now PHE) in 1999 as director of the HIV and STI department, before working at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, where he encouraged HIV prevention work among African American organisations.

In 2012 he returned to the UK to join PHE, where he guided several policies including combatting tobacco use and obesity, and promoting mental and sexual health issues.

Professor Fenton, who is also the regional director of public health for NHS London, described the public’s response to coronavirus as “incredible”.

He said: “To play a small part in it has been a humbling experience and I feel extremely proud of the work we have carried out.

“But it does not stop here. There is still a long way to go and we will continue working hard to stop the spread of this virus as we move through the winter and into the New Year.”

The annual list of the most powerful people of African, African Caribbean and African American heritage in the UK is ranked by independent judges chaired by retired High Court judge Dame Linda Dobbs, in partnership with law firm JP Morgan.

Others named include Mr Rashford, who campaigned for free school meals for children during the pandemic, actress and screenwriter Michaela Coel, who wrote and starred in 2020 drama I May Destroy You, and Jacqueline McKenzie, who fought for justice for victims of the Windrush Scandal.