Abiola Aiyenigba

We were devastated to hear of Abiola’s death this week.

Having first come to the University of Liverpool’s Sanyu Research Unit in 2013 not long after it launched, she was an important part of the unit’s development.

Doing her PhD part-time meant that she was a constant over 6 years as other short term students came and went. And she was always quick to offer them friendship and support. When we had visitors from Africa, many of them coming away for the first time, she would be ready to meet and greet them, showing them the local shops and tourist sites.

With a foot in both African and European cultures and with her friendly disposition she was the perfect person to do this. And then at the end of their stay, she would assist with assessment and organising the crucial night out at a local restaurant.

Abiola was a wonderful, sunny member of the team. But her own research studies showed that she was far more than that. No PhD is ever easy. But doing a PhD in two countries with very different cultures, whilst self-funding, working as a carer and looking after the wonderful Levi takes great determination and tenacity.

At our monthly supervision meetings she would often tell me of how well she was supported by her friends – both at church and beyond. And as she juggled her various roles we would often find her at her desk over the weekend or coming in with Levi.

It was always great to see the warm, unerringly polite Levi who would share with us stories of his life and cathedral singing. And in seeing Levi’s charm and good nature, we also saw signs of Abiola’s love and guidance.

Abiola’s PhD research was to create and test a way of assisting Nigerian women coping with the tragedy of infertility. With customary enthusiasm she set about creating a course she called ‘FELICIA’ (the Fertility Life Counselling Aid) and writing a detailed manual to go with it (now published – see Aiyenigba et al, African Journal of Reproductive Health 2019;23:76-91).

She went on to test it in a pilot randomised trial in 2018. She randomly allocated eight women with psychological distress to use the intervention and eight to usual care. The intervention was the giving of 6 hour-long sessions conducted by the fertility clinic nurses following Abiola’s self help workbook. And of the eight who took the course, all but one was comforted and no longer scored highly on the distress scale that we used. In contrast, only one of those in the control group improved.

When asked afterwards women spoke very highly of the intervention and how much it had empowered and helped them. The publication describing this study was in its final stages of drafting to be sent for publication. It is very sad that she will not be around to witness the excitement and interest that this publication will arouse.

Abiola was a bright and warm individual, with an exciting research career in front of her. She is a great loss to the global health community as well as to her friends and family. We are devastated by her passing.