Dr Sultana Khanum: Why I am remembering LSHTM in my will

Dr Sultana Khanum attended LSHTM in the 1980s after receiving a scholarship, and later went on to complete her PhD at our School. Sultana’s impactful career has focused on tackling child malnutrition in low-income settings. She also founded and runs the LSHTM Alumni Chapter in Bangladesh.
Dr Sultana Khanum with quote 'The best way I can continue to help save and improve lives worldwide is to leave a legacy to LSHTM'

Here, we learn about Sultana’s personal journey, her motivations for remembering LSHTM in her will, and her current work improving the lives of children worldwide. Sultana’s background as a child clinician has seen her working in both London for the NHS and in Bangladesh.

"I was put in charge of children suffering from malnutrition in Hackney and Tower Hamlets, two of the most impoverished boroughs in the city. It soon became clear that there was inadequate research in this area to prevent these children reaching the stage of hospitalisation for wholly preventable conditions, such as vitamin deficiencies, diarrhoea and pneumonia. I later returned to Bangladesh and continued to work as a clinician in the same field. I started to see many of the same problems that I was seeing in London. I wanted to prove that we could do so much more in terms of preventative health measures. In 1982, to combat this issue I applied for and was awarded a scholarship at LSHTM to study an MSc in Community Health in Developing Countries.

"After completing her studies, she returned to Bangladesh and worked with Save the Children, bringing with her a more enlightened approach and deeper understanding. “I directed medical students to go to the slums to uncover the ways in which child malnutrition could be prevented earlier. We were spending so much money in hospitals treating sick children who were then sent back into the community, only to return shortly after in the same or worse state.”

Sultana and her colleagues started piloting day care projects in the slums and trialling different home-based treatments for children. She then returned to LSHTM to study for a PhD on the cost-effective management of children with severe malnutrition.

“I learned such a lot at LSHTM, and it changed the whole direction of my life and altered the way I thought about health systems. From my time working as a clinician, I was treating children with very intensive treatments, and a lot of the children came from poverty, and their parents couldn’t afford their treatment. The knowledge I acquired at LSHTM enabled me to discover the root causes of these problems in poorer countries, of which 70% of the conditions we were seeing were completely preventable. We learned that if we can start in community settings, most of the suffering can be prevented, and money can be saved.

“The best way I can continue to help save and improve lives worldwide is to leave a legacy to LSHTM, enabling more people like myself from low- and middle-income countries to access education through scholarships, removing financial barriers to study.”

Sultana is currently a freelance public health and global health consultant, involved with the scaling up the nutrition movement which she helped to start in 2010, which is a UN Special Programme on Food Security and Nutrition. She is also working with the Bangladesh government to link international programmes with a global community while adhering to sustainable development goals.

“LSHTM enabled me to think in terms of global health. I have continued to apply this knowledge in NGOs, government bodies, the UN, and the WHO for the last 14 years. The results that we can achieve with this approach allow us to use science with honesty, for everyone, everywhere, to save lives and protect child health.”

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