Prof. Hadiza Galadanci is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Bayero University, Kano, She is also the Founding Director of the African Centre of Excellence in Population Health and Policy (ACEPHP). In July 2023, she was named one of the Heroines of Health by Women in Global Health for her dedication to reducing maternal and child mortality rates in Nigeria, Africa and across the globe. She also recently won the 2023 Goalkeepers award. In this interview with Blessing Oladunjoye, she shares her inspiration for the work she does and the numerous impacts she has made across the globe.
Blessing Oladunjoye: It’s a pleasure to be speaking with you ma, you wear so many caps, can you share more about yourself?
Prof Hadiza Galadanci: I train, mentor and supervise medical students and residents that specialize in obstetrics and gynaecology, as well as to train, mentor and supervise postgraduate students who do Masters in ACEPHP, which is the centre that I head, as well as PhD students. So my primary responsibility is training, supervising and mentoring. Then of course, as an obstetrician and gynaecologist, I provide clinical services. So I provide both gynecological services as well as obstetric services at the teaching hospital, where I work as a professor. And then thirdly now, which is what I’ve ventured into, that takes more of my time right now, is that I venture into doing high-impact research that can change the narrative of maternal health both in Nigeria, in Africa and globally. So I’m conducting global research, like the e-motive research, where we’re looking at how we can prevent postpartum haemorrhage using the bundle approach. We’re looking at how we can prevent women from dying from postpartum haemorrhage. We’re also looking at how we can treat women with anaemia in pregnancy, both in pregnancy and after delivery. We’re also looking at how our women in low-middle-income countries can access treatment for severe preeclampsia. That is the step-mark trial that we’re doing in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO). And of course, just to add to that, in terms of the training and the mentoring and the supervision, our students are not only Nigerian students, I have students from about 10 countries across Africa that are in my centre where they are doing their Master’s program. And hopefully, we’ll also start having regional students doing PhD program in our centre. So this is a nutshell of who I am.
Blessing Oladunjoye:: That’s actually a lot nutshell (laughs). Thank you so much for sharing that and well done for all the good work you’re doing. I am aware that you’re the first female gynecologist in Kano, Nigeria considering that Kano is a Northern Nigerian state, with the religious perspective and patriarchal society that it is, how would you describe the journey so far?
Prof Hadiza Galadanci: Well, it’s been a very interesting journey. Of course, it’s not without obstacles, but there are two people in my life who have made it so easy for me to get to where I am. The first is my dad. My dad was also a Professor and was once a Vice Chancellor of a University. He encouraged me right from when I was a young girl to achieve the highest education that I wanted to achieve. So I had 100% of his support and the support of my mum and the rest of the family. Then of course, I also have had great support from my husband, because as you know, when you grow up, you have to leave the comfort of having your father overseeing or supporting you to now venturing into married life. Therefore, I’ve had a husband who has been 100% supporting me to achieve the highest goals that I set for myself. So these two men in my life have really been my strength. They are the people who have gotten me to where I am.
I keep on telling young women that if you really have the support of these two men, your dad and your husband or your partner, then the sky is your limit. You really don’t have a glass ceiling once you have the support of these people.
So with their support, I can say that the obstacles I’ve had have been very, very minimal. With their support, I’ve been able to go over or address all the obstacles. So I was encouraged to finish school, to go to university. From the university, I was encouraged to go for Master’s. I was encouraged to go for residency even outside the country, to any extent I have to travel wherever I want to go to gain more knowledge as well as to contribute my own quota to knowledge and to science. So really, I’ve had a smooth ride, I can say, up to this level. Of course, as I said, once in a while you do get challenges probably from your environment, your working environment, but still you fall back on these two major pillars that you have. These major pillars will actually help you stand up and face any challenge that comes along.
Blessing Oladunjoye: Great. So you’ve acknowledged the importance of support from the father and from the spouse as a driving force. Thank you. So what are some of the roles that you have played in reducing maternal and child mortality and also touching on some of the impacts you have made so far?
Prof. Hadiza Galadanci: I think as a teacher, a lecturer, and a professor in the university, I’ve contributed to training human resources for health, for Nigeria. On average, there are about 2000 students that I have trained, because thinking of it every single year, since probably 2000 and maybe 2004 we graduate a minimum of 100 medical students from the teaching hospital or from the University where I work. So at least I’ve contributed to knowledge and to training them. And these students are now in various places within Nigeria, even outside Nigeria. I was recently in the US and in the UK and I saw a lot of my students that are really contributing to the provision of health care in these countries, apart from the thousands of them that are in Nigeria. So that’s one way of contributing to maternal health, because you need human resources, so the doctors are there to look after women and save lives.
Then of course, I have Master’s students, as I said, in my new centre, which is the African Center of Excellence for Population Health and Policy, who are not only in Nigeria, but also in 10 African countries. So for that also, we’re doing Master’s in Maternal Child Health and Policy, Master’s in Global Health and Policy, Master’s in Public Health, Nutrition and Policy, Master’s in Mental Health and Policy, Master’s in Public Health Nursing and Policy. So all the students contribute to their gaining knowledge and hopefully, they will go back to their countries and go back to their various states and societies to impact on what they have learned. And then, of course, residents. I have trained many residents as consultants now, obstetricians and gynaecologists. When I came to Kano, I was the fourth consultant in our teaching hospital in obstetrics and gynaecology and of course, the first female.
But right now, I have trained over probably getting to 20 female consultants, gynaecologists and obstetricians who are working in Kano and in different states across Nigeria, as well as many, many male gynaecologists.
So we’ve trained a lot of residents who are now specialists and they’re taking leadership roles all over the country. Some are working in Ministries, some are even heads of departments, and some are even professors now, some are also working in NGOs and so on. And they’re providing their quota in trying to save lives and trying to improve the health of women and children and generally, the health of Nigerians.
Then, I cannot count the number of capacity-building courses that I have participated in and trained people in. I mean, they’re in thousands. I have worked with Pathfinder International, I’ve worked with IHB, USAID, UNFPA, WHO, I’ve worked with MNCH, I’ve worked with so many of them that I can’t even remember right now. And most of these projects and things that we do, there is a part of capacity building that we do to nurses, to doctors, to community health workers and so on. And, I’ve also contributed to actually to development of guidelines and policies in Nigeria. I was part of the development of the PMTCT guideline, the MPDSR guideline, the cervical cancer policy guideline, the training modules for PMTCT, training models for MPDSR, training models for life-saving skills. So, I participated in developing all these policy documents in Nigeria and they are being used across levels in Nigeria. Then of course, apart from this, I’ve also contributed in terms of global partnership to International Maternal New Born which is a global initiative trying to see how we can make sure we are on track to achieve SDG 3. I was part of the steering committee that organised the IMNCH conference in Cape Town, the International Maternal New Born Health Conference that was very successful in Cape Town. I’ve been in part of the steering committee for reducing maternal mortality in Africa under the West African Health Organization. I’m part of the guideline development for WHO. We’ve developed guidelines for the use of antibiotics for vaginal delivery, for caesarean section, for assisted delivery, and the use of how to prevent PPH for caesarean section. I have contributed in terms of the number of publications I’ve had over 120 right now, the number of publications that I’ve had across board in the maternal child health aspect.
And then in terms of my community, I’m on many boards such as the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria. I’m the chair of the board of trustees for in-gender health that looks into the vesicovaginal fistula and safety in caesarean section. I’m the chair of the National Reproductive Health Working Group which supports the federal government in all matters that are related to reproductive and maternal child health and helps them in addressing challenges and making sure that the policies are achieved. And then as I said, locally, I’m in many NGOs and societies that organize cancer walk, community awareness, community education, and so on and so forth. And then of course, as I said, now I’m doing research that the findings of the research should go beyond just saving the life of a Kano woman or a Nigerian woman or an African woman, but globally, like an emotive, why we have shown that the bundle that we have used or we have tried, which is the emotive bundle, can actually reduce the rate of severe postpartum haemorrhage, which is the commonest cause of women dying by 60%. Right now, over 20,000 women die in Nigeria as a result of severe postpartum haemorrhage. So if we can reduce that by 60%, I think that would be something that I think I’ve achieved in my life. So this is now we’re contributing globally on how we can reduce maternal mortality due to postpartum haemorrhage. And of course, I mentioned the issue of the IVON trial. So with this, we’re trying a new injection that with one single injection, you can treat anemia in pregnancy instead of giving drugs that they will be taken for two weeks And we know they don’t take this drug and we know it’s not very effective. So we have also finished that trial. We’re about to publish it. Countries will now, especially low-middle income countries where you have a high incidence and prevalence of anaemia in pregnancy, will now adopt it or change their guideline and include this injection. And then we would have contributed to also reducing anaemia in pregnancy, which is also one of the major morbidity and mortality in maternal health. And then of course, the Eclampsia, instead of the current treatment you use about eight injections to treat people with severe preeclampsia. Now we are trying injections where you do only two. Now, if we’re able to show that these two are as good as the eight, then we’re giving more women the opportunity and access to have this treatment because then it is anaemia even midwives can give, even in the community in primary health care, people can give and save the lives of women that will lose from Eclampsia and severe preeclampsia. So, right now, we are doing the trial and WHO is waiting for the result of this trial to see how they can change their policy or review their policy, on the treatment of severe preeclampsia.
Blessing Oladunjoye: it’s interesting to hear you speak about the numerous policies that you have worked on. Can you explain how they have been implemented and also whether they are inclusive of minority groups such as women with disabilities?
Prof Hadiza Galadanci: So, I’ve told you the policies that have been passed from PMTCT. HIV patients are I believe think vulnerable too. I was part of the first team that went to the United States to learn how to do PMTCT and come back and develop it in Nigeria. This is in 2002. When we came back, we developed the guideline, the participant manual, training tools, the data collecting tools and we implemented them. Currently, PTMCT has been fully implemented in Nigeria. We were the first, there were about seven of us that started it from scratch. And now anytime I see the PMTCT program, I’m usually happy to see what it has become now.
Then of course, we have the MPDSR, which is Maternal Perinatal Death Surveillance Response, which is one of the strategies for reducing maternal mortality. I’ve also been part of it right from day one. We have all the documents produced, including the guidelines, the policy and everything and it is implemented across the country.
Then we have the cervical cancer prevention policy. I was part of it and I’m sure part of it is being implemented. I’ve reduced a bit of my presence in cervical cancer because it’s more of oncology. I’ve decided to stick to maternal and child health and fetal maternal medicine. But I was part of those who developed the policy some years back and even reviewed it after a while. We have, in fact, written a bill on the MPDSR. We have taken it up to the level of it being heard in the National Assembly. And I think that at one point they were just waiting for the president to assent to it. I don’t know at what level it is right now. But where every single maternal death is to be notifiable, they should be audited so that we can learn from it and see how we can improve.
So right now, the centre where I head, the African Center of Excellence for Population Health and Policy, one of the main things that we’re doing is training our students to translate their research findings to policy. And we also conduct capacity-building for researchers across Nigeria and Africa. Just about two weeks ago, 15 Kenyans were in Kano, where we trained them on how they can translate whatever research findings they get from their research into policy. These are steps that you’re supposed to take if you want to achieve that. But we really want to make sure our researchers don’t just do research for publication or for promotion, that they do research so that at the end of the day, they either get a product out of the research or produce policies arising from the findings of the research. So you need to involve the policy makers right from day one so that you can achieve that goal.
Blessing Oladunjoye: You’ve talked about all the impact, a whole lot of what you’ve done. I believe that you must have encountered some challenges in the course of your work. How have you been able to overcome some of these challenges?
Prof Hadiza Galadanci: I think the first challenge I faced during my training was, of course, as a woman, you have a family. So when I was going for my Masters in the UK, I had a small baby, just about 10 months old. That baby is now a doctor anyway. I could not take her to the UK and whilst I was still going to be doing studies, I had nobody in the UK. And then, of course, to think about keeping her with just my husband and probably a house help. So my parents came to my rescue. That’s why I said, I always fall back on their pillars. So my mom took care of my 10-month-old baby for a year when I was doing my studies in the UK.
So I could stay in the UK and do my studies without thinking of my children. I had four children at the time; three children plus that little baby. And my parents took care of them completely and my husband agreed to that. So I had no problem at all. I went and did my studies and came back. So really for us, as women, one of the challenges is combining your home responsibility and your work, or your home responsibility and your academics. But I’ve been very lucky to have been able to combine both together. I have four children, one of them is an architect, the other one is a civil engineer. The third one is a mechanical engineer. And then the fourth one is a medical doctor. So I’ve been able to raise them with God’s mercies and grace,
One of the first questions I’m always asked everywhere is how I combine my family life, my academic life and my management and my everything life. And I always tell them that there’s always time for everything. When I’m in the office, I’m in the office. When I get home, I dedicate myself to my family. I mean, when my children were growing up, all their homework, I made sure that they did their homework. I was always in their school when there was a need for parents to be there. I was always there, following what they were doing and supporting them. As well as I was still actively pursuing my own career. Now that’s a long time, for a long time, they’ve all gone to school and I could now face my career and, you know, squarely because they’re all on their own. So I think it was a good idea that I had them very early. I was able to get them across, you know, where you really need to be there all the time. And then once they were all in school and quite comfortable and progressing, I now faced my own career very well. So one is the range of family and your career. But I think, as I said, with the support of my dad, my husband, the family, I’ve been able to handle that without any problem.
The other thing is that, in gynaecology and obstetrics, even though it’s female-filled in terms of taking care of females, but really, there are more male gynaecologists and obstetricians than females across the world especially in Nigeria. As I said, when I came in, every single gynaecologist was a male and I was the first female. So that, in the beginning, was a bit of a challenge for me because they would put odd times of doing things and, of course, as an obstetrician, in the middle of the night, you work till morning on your feet because the men would be resting all the time. So it was a bit difficult at the beginning, but I got used to it and the men accepted me because I was very hard working.
So as a female, you have to prove yourself beyond reasonable doubt that you can do it. You do extra because you are a female to prove that you can do it compared to your male colleagues who probably don’t need to prove themselves.
But for you, they will say, they won’t give you any responsibility because you’re a woman because today you say you’re pregnant, tomorrow you say children are sick, the next day you say you have to be in your house, there’s something happening, but you have to prove yourself that you are capable. So at the beginning, it was difficult because I had to prove myself, but by the time I proved beyond any reasonable doubt that I could do it, I was fully accepted in fact more like a role model to many women and girls in the society because if I can do then they can do it as well.
I am absolutely a Hausa, absolutely a Muslim and therefore if they think when you are either a Northerner or a Muslim you cannot achieve these goals, I’ve proven that it is not true, you can do it, you just need to be motivated to do it.
You need to get the support, you need to do it of course and ultimately God will support you and give you all the blessings you need and you can achieve your dreams and goals.
Blessing Oladunjoye: So recently you won the Heroine of Health award, How does this inspire you to do more in your field?
Prof Hadiza Galadanci: Well, as I said during the dinner, the award was really, first of all, surprising to me because whatever one is doing, you sort of know you’re doing it in your little corner and now the world has recognized your contribution. FIGO nominated me has recognized my contribution to Global Health and therefore has honored me with this award. So it really gives me some sort of encouragement to do more. If the little I am doing has been recognized, then I can do much more to really see that I can impact on the lives of women and children across Africa and across the world. So it just gingered me more, you know, they still know I can do. And of course, there are many other awardees and it’s good to know what they have done. And therefore I can see where to learn from what the others have done. So it really was quite an honour to have that award.
Blessing Oladunjoye: Great. What would be your charge to younger women, especially advocates working within the space?
Prof Hadiza Galadanci: As I said, as a woman, I think it’s always important you have support. I don’t think you can achieve a lot without support. And of course, your support can be from whoever you feel can support you. But definitely, I have read it. My support comes from the two pillars of my life, and that’s my dad and my husband. So it’s actually a call to fathers, that if they want their daughters to achieve a goal in life, then I think there is a need for them to really support her right from when she’s a young girl. And that would really help her in getting to where she needs to get to.
In fact, some parents even insist that the husband or the spouses of their daughters must allow them to, you know, continue their career. I have colleagues that say that, you know, if they have daughters and if anybody comes to marry them, one of the legal conditions that they will have to sign is that will allow their daughters to continue their academics and pursue whatever they want to pursue, whatever field it is. So I think it is important that that support is available. I think knowledge is key. Our young girls who want to achieve anything in life should make sure that they equip themselves with knowledge and skills. And you don’t get old in learning in learning. I remember when I came back after my Master’s in the UK and I told my dad that I was done. You know, by that by then I had finished my first degree in medicine. I’ve done my speciality as an obstetrician resident in Lagos. I had gone to the UK and did a masters in London school and I came back and there was a party organized by my parents for me. But my dad got up and said that he felt I’d just started as far as my career was concerned, I looked at him surprisingly that I was done. Six months after I went back to him to say that I was going back to the UK. And he said, didn’t I tell you that, you’re just starting? Now you’re going back to gain more. And I told him, yes, when you told me, I felt that I would never go out for any more knowledge. I’ve done it. I’ve gotten to where I wanted to. But, you know, I went there and I’ve continued to learn up till today. I just finished an online training on policy development and e-learning and digital education. So knowledge is never enough, so I encourage our young girls to equip themselves with good knowledge and skills. And if you have good knowledge and skills, people will look for you. You don’t even need to look for people to engage them. People will look for you wherever you are. And you focus on whatever you’re doing. Don’t be carried away with a few achievements you’ve had. You should always be focused so that you can achieve more. And then be hardworking. I think as a female you really need to be hardworking because you’re combining most of the time your home front as well as your career. So you need to be hardworking, if you really want to achieve, success.
And then you have to be an honest person. Honesty is key if you want to progress. I have seen it over and over. To be an honest person. And you should be a good team player because most of the time you can only achieve a few of these things. All these things that I have mentioned, I didn’t achieve them working in silos. Right now all the emotives that I’m talking about, the IVAN, I’m not the only one doing the study. I have the IVAN research team across the world. I have teams in Kenya that are working with WHO. If you’re not a good team player, there is no way you can achieve success. So you have to be a good team player. Of course, discipline. You have to be a disciplined person. It goes with hard work and even the team player. So hard work, discipline, good team player, honesty and dedication to whatever you’re doing. Then the sky is your limit. You don’t have any glass ceiling. I’ve said over and over, I don’t have any glass ceiling. Wherever I want to go, I can get there with God’s blessing.
Blessing Oladunjoye: Thank you very much for your time ma, it has been enlightening speaking with you. Is there anything that you’d like to touch on that we have not discussed?
Prof Hadiza Galadanci: Not at all. You’ve asked all the questions. I’ve answered more than what you need, I’m sure. Thank you too.