Leading Voices: Andrew Etsetowaghan

Leading Voices: Andrew Etsetowaghan

Meet Andrew Etsetowaghan, Associate Director for Technical Services with the CaTSS project in Nigeria. Fueled by a passion to help others since childhood, Andrew was determined to find a way to fulfill his dreams. He decided to pursue medicine—otherwise becoming a priest or superhero—and dedicate his career to improving health systems in his community. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Describe your daily work briefly.

My work day starts quite early, usually by 7:30 a.m., where I review key tasks to be done or pending from the previous day. I meet frequently with thematic leads (ART, quality improvement, OVC, gender, supply chain systems, laboratory advisor) to track programmatic performance against achievements. And I work with field-based teams to improve service delivery and follow-up on all reporting deadlines as needed. One of the most enjoyable parts of my day is our daily communal breakfast meal, where the entire team comes together to have bean cake, usually between 7:30–8:30 a.m. It is a great bonding time—something I recommend for anyone visiting Nigeria.

How did you get to where you are today?

I have always had a passion to help others since childhood. I could either become a priest, doctor, or superhero—inspired by my comic books at the time. I soon realized that it was almost impossible to fly without buying an airline ticket and priests were not allowed to get married, so I settled for medicine.

I studied medicine and surgery from the University of Benin, Nigeria, with a postgraduate training in HIV management and clinical research from the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp in Belgium and a Master in Public Health from the University of Leeds, UK. While at Leeds, I discovered my love of teaching and taught primary school children about Africa. My first stint in public health was working with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Nigeria, first as an HIV clinician, then as a consultant to establish a new maternal and child health MSF clinic in Makoko, Lagos. This marked an instrumental moment in my career, where I experienced firsthand the impact that cost-effective interventions can have on the poorest and most vulnerable populations.

I continued my work with sub-recipients of the Global Fund, Round 5 and 9, and provided support to the FHI-SIDHAS project in Nigeria. I joined MSH in 2014.

Have you ever experienced a moment during your time at MSH that made you change your perception about something?

While working with Mentor Mothers in our Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) program, I was humbled by their dedication to work, despite the various challenges that they go through every day. I realized people are willing to share knowledge and expose their thinking after they have built a trusting relationship with you. This is one of the special things that MSH does wherever MSH works.

What makes MSH’s approach in HIV and TB care and treatment services delivery different than other organizations?

MSH provides a platform that nurtures innovation and creativity among staff, ensuring that everyone has a voice. This is something that is difficult to find in most organizations. The Innovation Challenge (INCH) Fund and our Ideas Laboratory are examples of strategies that ensure teams work together to test the theory of change in the countries where we work. Our approach has also always been patient-centered, in keeping with the Tao of Leadership, which often challenges the norm and makes a unique difference in service delivery.

What is still missing in our work in ensuring that the communities in Nigeria receive quality HIV and TB care and treatment?

It has been quite difficult to provide certain community services in the current climate of funding. We are limited to providing services in facilities within certain local government areas, which have been designated for sustained support only. This remains a challenge for our HIV/TB programming in Nigeria since over 40 percent of women in certain regions do not have access to services. To achieve epidemic control, it is critical that we continue to advocate actively for community-focused interventions, especially for adolescent girls and young women.

What was especially rewarding, meaningful, or inspiring about your work?

One of the most inspiring and rewarding moments in my work has been working with HIV- positive pregnant women, and providing those interventions that can help to deliver babies who are HIV-negative. That moment when you share a negative test result of an uninfected baby to an HIV-positive pregnant mother—that continues to inspire me to do more.

What do you love about working for MSH?

MSH is a unique people-centered learning organization. It provides staff with opportunities to be innovative, creative; to build their capacity and grow their careers. MSH is also a family- centered organization. This is what I love about MSH.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

When I am not at work, I enjoy outdoor cycling (both road and mountain biking).