Congratulations to our PhD graduates

News article 25 Jul 2018

Four PhD candidates from The Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health have successfully completed their studies.

Dr Aduragbemi Banke Thomas, Dr Mary McCauley, Dr Abimbola Olaniran and Dr Thidar Pyone were awarded their degrees at a graduation ceremony in Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall on Friday 20th July. All four have successfully completed a PhD research study in the area of maternal and newborn health.

Professor Nynke van den Broek, Head of the Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health, said:
“This is a fantastic achievement. Well done to all four students for their hard work and commitment. All of us at CMNH are very proud of their achievements and thank them for their contribution to this field.”


Dr Aduragbemi Banke Thomas’ thesis explored the social return on investment of Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care training in Kenya.

Dr Barbara Madaj, Head of Monitoring and Evaluation at CMNH, who supervised Dr Banke Thomas said:
“Applying social return on investment to evaluate a training programme for healthcare workers providing emergency care in maternity services in Kenya was a great platform for using an innovative methodological approach in a real-life setting. Including the perspectives of women using the services, representatives of healthcare staff, as well as other people involved in the organisation of care, paired with the review of financial data on the training programme allowed us to understand more holistically aspects relevant to capacity building programmes. As his supervisor, it was a real pleasure to work with Adura on his thesis – his enthusiasm and willingness to learn made the process rewarding and it was great to see him grow and develop over the course of his studies. We are very proud of his achievements and on his graduation, congratulate him and wish him all the best!” 


Dr Mary McCauley’s research on maternal morbidity highlighted a previously underestimated and/or ‘hidden’ burden of ill health for women during and after pregnancy.

Professor Nynke van den Broek, Head of CMNH, who supervised Dr McCauley’s PhD, said:
“Health is more than medical or physical wellness and includes psychological and social health. For the first time, a huge burden of undetected illness has been comprehensively studied and identified in women during and after pregnancy in low- and middle-income countries. This is ground-breaking work from Mary; we can now quantify the burden of disease using a new standardised tool, which we hope can be used to improve the health of many women worldwide. We are very proud of Mary’s work and achievements throughout her PhD.”


Dr Abimbola Olaniran examined integration of community-based health workers into the maternal health system.

Dr Barbara Madaj was part of Dr Olaniran’s Advisory Panel:
“Abimbola’s study of community health workers in four countries in Asia and Africa was a challenging and ambitious project, but one that made for a much needed and interesting piece of research. It allows us to better understand how staff in the different settings contribute to the provision of care for mothers and babies and what challenges and opportunities they face. I really enjoyed observing Abimbola’s progress as part of his Advisory Panel and learning about his work, and I am very happy to be able to congratulate him on completing his studies and the award of a PhD title for his thesis!”


Dr Thidar Pyone studied health system governance in Kenya by undertaking an assessment at national and subnational level.

Professor Nynke van den Broek:
“Governance is a very complex issue, but a crucial element of a functioning health system.  Similarly, maternal and newborn health are considered the ‘litmus test’ of the health system; maternal and newborn health outcomes tend to be better when the whole health system is functioning well, and vice versa. Identifying the key factors that influence and determine good governance and how to measure these has largely been an unexplored area of research, but Thidar has developed a new assessment framework for this, and applied it in Kenya to examine the relationship between governance and healthcare facility functionality with regard to provision of maternity care. This study is a great achievement - congratulations to Thidar on an important and robust contribution to this field.”


Read more about current and recently completed PhD research studies here:

Publications related to the above studies include:

  • Banke-Thomas A, Madaj B, Kumar S, Ameh CA, van den Broek N. Assessing value-for-money in maternal and newborn health. BMJ Global Health 2017;2:e000310. doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2017-000310
  • Banke-Thomas A, Wilson-Jones M, Madaj B, van den Broek N. Economic evaluation of emergency obstetric care training: a systematic review. BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth 2017;17: 403
  • Banke-Thomas AO, Madaj B, Ameh C, van den Broek N. Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology to account for value for money of public health interventions: a systematic review. BMC Public Health 2015;15:582.
  • McCauley M, Madaj B, White SA, Dickinson F, Bar-Zeev S, Aminu M, Godia P, Mittal P, Zafar S, van den Broek N. Burden of physical, psychological and social ill-health during and after pregnancy among women in India, Pakistan, Kenya and Malawi. BMJ Global Health 2018;3(3):e000625. doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2017-000625 Available at:
  • Olaniran A, Smith H, Unkels R, Bar-Zeev S, van den Broek N. (2017) Who is a community health worker? – a systematic review of definitions. Global Health Action 2017;10(1):1272223. doi: 10.1080/16549716.2017.1272223
  • Pyone T, Smith H, van den Broek N. Frameworks to assess health systems governance: a systematic review. Health Policy and Planning, 2017;32(5):710-22. doi: 10.1093/heapol/czx007
  • Pyone T, Smith H and van den Broek N. Implementation of free maternity services policy and its implication on health system governance in Kenya. BMJ Global Health 2017;2(4):e000249