PhD student at the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences

Elizabeth Onyenefu Obekpa

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Elizabeth Onyenefu is a 32 year-old Nigerian woman studying for a PhD degree at the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences of the University of Texas-Houston.

Elizabeth became a pharmacist at the age of 23 and developed an interest in Sexual and Reproductive Health Education and decided to study public health in a developed country. She enrolled in the Public Health master’s program at the University of Leeds (UK) since this program focuses on promoting gender equality; improving health outcomes for women and children; and addressing health disparities in low and middle-income countries. 

Following graduation, Elizabeth worked with Caritas Nigeria, a non-profit organization that offers services for the poor, as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer and served as the Activity Manager for its Adolescent HIV Care and Treatment Program. While working there, she realized that there is a huge need to prevent HIV negative women and adolescents from HIV/STIs and unplanned pregnancies. 

She decided to pursue a doctorate degree in public health, believing that a PhD will help her successfully develop and implement reproductive health evidence-based interventions to improve the sexual and reproductive health of Nigerian women and girls, through education, skills-building, and changing socio-cultural norms and gender roles.

For her PhD thesis, Elizabeth aims to culturally adapt the ‘It’s Your Game… Keep It Real (IYG)’ program in Nigeria to prevent teen pregnancies and HIV/STI in middle school youth, specifically to adolescent girls and to assess the usability and feasibility of the adapted intervention.

Elizabeth expects to graduate in 2022 and upon completion of her studies,  plans to return to her former place of work, Caritas Nigeria, which is interested in promoting adolescent sexual and reproductive health across Nigeria. She hopes to lead the establishment of an Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Unit there in partnership with the Ministries of Health and Education to implement the adapted  IYG program.