Bothaina Eltigani (IHTM 2021)
DPhil: The Relationship between Climate Change and Violence in Adults and Girls in Sub-Saharan Africa.
As a medical doctor in Sudan, Bothaina worked in Emergency and ICU departments and volunteered in the first COVID-19 isolation centre in Sudan. She also helped establish a youth-led local NGO, Barana Hanabneiho “We Will Build it Ourselves”, which aims to rebuild dilapidated schools in rural areas and campaigns to raise awareness of female education and encourage girls to enrol in school.
After graduating from IHTM in 2022, Bothaina started her DPhil with the Department of Social Intervention and Policy at the University of Oxford.
Through the department, the Sudanese Society at the University and her DPhil supervisor, Professor Lucie Cluver, Bothaina was able to have a direct impact on families affected by the outbreak of war in Sudan on 15 April 2023. She proposed creating trusted and evidenced-based parenting guidelines for displaced families to use to explain the situation to their children. Working alongside the Global Parenting Initiative and partners, The WHO and UNICEF, the guidelines were ready in 2.5 days and then disseminated to Sudan country officials including the Ministry of Health.
Bothaina, along with the Sudanese society, also played an instrumental role in campaigning to raise donations to alleviate the suffering of vulnerable populations affected by the conflict. They organised various bake sale charities, and launched a fundraising campaign where they collected almost £10,000 towards medical aid, food and shelter.
Bothaina established the Sudanese Society at the University of Oxford in October 2022. She was inspired by the strong sense of community Sudanese people embody back in Sudan. She says,
“The aim of the society is to channel Sudanese innovation, academic excellence and cultural heritage.”
The Sudanese Society has carried out various impactful events such as a webinar titled “All roads lead to Oxford University” where the members offered valuable advice in applying to Oxford and scholarship schemes. Bothaina was able to identify a number of Sudanese offer holders who could not secure funding for their studies in Oxford. She proactively worked with the IHTM senior leadership team and the Refugee Studies Centre at the University to advocate for the importance of supporting these students. As a result of these efforts, Sudanese offer holders who have been displaced are now considered for funding opportunities. Bothaina says,
“Supporting Sudanese scholars to access funding opportunities is now needed more than ever, given the country’s dire situation, they are the only hope to uplift and rebuild Sudan”.
Bothaina wanted to have a wider impact than she could by treating individual patients as a medical doctor. She was interested in finding the root of public health problems rather than treating their effects and determining effective policy to improve them. Bothaina looked to develop her knowledge and skills through a master’s degree.
Bothaina describes IHTM as providing a critical lens to view and engage with global health problems. Students were taught to think critically and to consider the effect of multiple influences which are often unrelated, such as the relationship between climate change and sexual exploitation.
The MSc teaches a thoughtful approach to research and addresses the ethics, as well as promoting meaningful engagement with research populations. This has been instrumental in Bothaina’s approach to her DPhil. She emphasises the importance of being able to use skills learnt through IHTM to communicate and disseminate research findings to target audiences who can influence global health policy.
Bothaina was also deeply affected by her IHTM research placement in South Africa, which she describes as the best thing that ever happened to her. She came to appreciate the extent of inequality and to realise the power that the youth of a population can have on a society.
The last word
“IHTM was like a menu with all my favourite dishes. There were so many important topics: ethics, research engagement, critical thinking, negotiation and leadership. All of these have shaped how I approach the next stage of my global health career.”