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Physician earns MPH to address social inequities leading to poor health
By Sarah Campbell
After providing primary care to more than 10,000 patients living with HIV/AIDS, Dr. Henrietta Ezegbe has a deep understanding of how inequities and injustices increase morbidity and mortality.
Dr. Ezegbe completed her medical degree at the University of Maiduguri in Borno State, Nigeria before practicing in infectious disease prevention and control. However, she realized that further training could help her prevent the diseases she was treating in person after person.
“I wanted to do more than just help people who were already very sick,” says Dr. Ezegbe. “I had many long thoughts on how to make a difference and reckoned the way out was to take measures that identify and address the upstream forces responsible for these social inequities and their resultant health effects.”
This drive led her to SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences, where Dr. Ezegbe recently received her Master of Public Health with a Global Health concentration. Her capstone looked at Continuous Quality Initiatives (CQI) that strengthen viral suppression among adolescents living with HIV in Nigeria, an important step towards ensuring these young people are not left behind in the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets to eradicate HIV by 2030.
According to Dr. Ezegbe, young people living with HIV represent a population requiring special focus: “Globally, adolescents are the only group in which significant success is not being recorded in HIV/AIDS-related morbidity and mortality, especially in resource-limited, high HIV-burden settings like Nigeria and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.”
For Dr. Ezegbe, SFU’s community engagement approach was a considerable factor in her decision to pursue an MPH with the university, as were the diverse backgrounds of its students. She says there have been many highlights during her time with FHS, but professor Malcolm Steinberg’s experiential learning course in HIV/AIDS in South Africa especially stands out. The course is a collaboration between SFU and the Sub-Saharan African Network for Tuberculosis and HIV Research Excellence (SANTHE).
“Learning directly from young women living with HIV, sex workers’ rights advocates, top HIV/AIDS researchers and other medical professionals, as well as visiting the traditional care providers, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Dr. Ezegbe.
With the recent completion of her MPH, Dr. Ezegbe plans to pursue further public health residency training and seek a fellowship in public health and preventive medicine.