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Alumni Spotlight: Cervical Health Awareness Month

Researcher at work

Cervical cancer is a preventable disease. Yet, it is the most prevalent cause of cancer in Africa, accounting for 22% of all female cancers and 12% of all newly diagnosed cancers in both men and women every year. (AHA, 2023)[1]

This January, as part of Cervical Health Awareness Month, AREF is shedding light on the impactful story of Dr. Esther K. Afolabi, an Associate Professor in the Nursing Department of Calvin University, Michigan who has extensive work on cervical health in Nigeria. Dr. Esther has a nursing background with an emphasis on improving clinical nursing care and cervical health services. As an AREF alumnus, she was part of the AREF Essential Grant Writing Skills Workshop and AREF Mentoring Programme in 2021. As part of the benefits of the grants, she participated in many training workshops on proposal writing, literature search, and data analysis, further augmenting her skills in her research area. Through AREF, she had the opportunity to meet and interact with women in research and science who shared similar passion and enthusiasm. The organizations also engaged many experts in cancer care to work directly with her at various stages of the research.

 “I have shared knowledge gained from these workshops with colleagues and students at the university and got involved in funded projects. Currently, I am a Co-PI for a submitted study currently being evaluated by the Sigma Theta Tau grant” mentioned Dr Esther. “AREF is always looking for new ways to support you, build greater community among our ladies, and create support groups and systems because we know these are very important for women.” 

Prior to partaking in AREF initiatives, Dr. Esther won the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA) PhD Fellowships from 2014-2018 and the African Dissertation Doctoral Research Fellowship (ADDRF) from 2016-2018.

Dr. Esther worked as a nurse instructor, a nurse volunteer, and a clinician before joining the academic workforce.  She is Registered Nurse-Midwife, a public health Nurse and holds a Ph.D. in Nursing from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State, Nigeria, and also a fellow of the West Africa College of Nursing. Esther’s MSc research findings were an impetus for her PhD dissertation study that adopted a concurrent mixed method design to assess the quality and utilization of Cervical Cancer Preventive Services (CCPS) in Secondary Health Facilities (SHF) in Southwestern Nigeria.

The results from the study revealed that few SHFs had good-quality CCPS. The qualitative data showed three contextual factors: (i) the predisposing factors identified were the level of knowledge and awareness of cervical cancer and CCPS facilities, (ii) the Enabling factor was the cost of service, and (iii) the Need factor identified was “being sexually active.” The women’s perspectives of these contextual factors are vital for effective strategies to improve the utilization of CCPS.

As part of AREF’s main principals, our aim is to support communities of health researchers across Africa to become research experts capable of tackling African health challenges, Dr. Esther keeping in line with this motto, continues to be stellar in giving back to her community. For instance, she attains rich experience in community-based projects, including community engagement programs, health system strengthening, and health services research. This includes providing and supporting community outreach on CC prevention and being the team leader of the Christian community medical outreach aimed at healthcare services at the community and grassroots levels in Southwestern Nigeria. Additionally, Dr Esther led a team of nurses to set up and integrate cervical cancer screening centers in four selected healthcare facilities in Osun State.

As a member of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) in Nigeria and the Gynecological Oncology Society of Nigeria, she partakes in this professional association committed to promoting excellence in oncology care and the transformation of cancer care.
Moreover, her commitment to the cause equally allows her to be involved in networking and collaborative research geared towards proffering solutions to prevailing reproductive health problems in our resource-constrained society.

 “The leadership has been very supportive, providing access to a platform where I can acquire critical skills and articulate strategies to promote a more open system of evidence-based research and education. Thanks to AREF, I have been able to establish a network of open-minded individuals who are dedicated to advancing research and science.”

As part of her career goal she has excelled in being involved in networking and collaborative research geared towards proffering solutions to prevailing reproductive health problems among the teeming population in our resource-constrained society.


Notes for Editors

For media inquiries, contact:

Awa L. Jagne,

Africa Research Excellence Fund

The Africa Research Excellence Fund (AREF) was founded by Professor Sir Tumani Corrah KBE in 2015.

Professor Corrah founded AREF to support the careers of the new generation of African researchers, giving them the stepping stones needed to become outstanding research leaders in their respective fields, ensuring that talent is retained in Africa to address the continent’s unique health research needs.

AREF’s vision is of an inspired, committed, and talented community of researchers in Africa leading world-class research and participating equitably in international research endeavours for health and wellbeing.


You may contact Esther here:

Twitter /X:   @EsteeAfo


Instagram: estee16


Published: 31 January 2024