With great sadness we have to announce the death of our colleague Deepthi Wickremasinghe on 2 April 2020. Deepthi had been an integral part of our team since the beginning of the IDEAS project in 2011 and will be greatly missed.
Deepthi specialised in qualitative research, systematic literature reviews, and information and knowledge management.
Deepthi’s many contributions to IDEAS included her qualitative research on how to scale-up and sustain maternal and newborn child interventions. She led on a study about a new ‘Village Health Worker’ scheme in Gombe state in Nigeria. The scheme increased community health workers’ skills and capacity and was seen as a significant way to save the lives of mothers and babies. Deepthi frequently travelled to Nigeria so that she could interview stakeholders on what was working and why. An important part of her work was to give stakeholders real time feedback on emerging findings as the project developed. And so, Deepthi contributed very directly to the scheme’s success.
Deepthi wrote many publications and gave many presentations for IDEAS. She had an ability to present research findings precisely and powerfully for different audiences including policy decision makers, practitioners and academics. Deepthi’s work is very well received and she has made significant contributions to knowledge about maternal and newborn child health. For example, she presented her work on scale-up and sustainability at the high-profile Health Systems Research Conference in Vancouver in 2016 which generated a lot of interest and appreciation from conference participants.
Following this, Deepthi was lead writer on a widely read journal article about how global health donors’ behaviour affects scale-up and sustainability of maternal and newborn health interventions.
As well as her academic contributions, Deepthi was always very keen to ensure her work was relevant and valuable to policy decision makers and practitioners – and so would have a positive impact on people’s lives. She wrote many policy and research briefings including two about the Village Health Worker scheme that were highly valued by stakeholders in Gombe.
Many will remember Deepthi as the person who put together the IDEAS weekly ‘what’s new in maternal and newborn health’. A weekly digest of newly published peer-reviewed research relevant to maternal and newborn health in Ethiopia, India and Nigeria. To create it, Deepthi did literature searches, selected a few publications of most interest to the group, and put the titles, abstracts and web-links into a document which was sent around IDEAS, Dagu, ORCA, MARCH and more. Deepthi did this every week for over five years: quietly, efficiently, calmly and in good humour.
Deepthi was an experienced journalist and copyeditor. Before joining LSHTM she worked in the NGO sector, particularly focusing on health communication techniques in low-resource settings, for the National Health Service, and as a journalist with an international news agency.
The IDEAS project and partners benefited enormously from Deepthi’s writing and diligent editing skills. She supported the production of a large range of collaborative academic outputs, including a series of Knowledge Summaries for the Partnership for Maternal Newborn Child and Health, hosted by the World Health Organization.
Deepthi was ordained as a deacon in Southwark Cathedral in June 2019 and served her curacy at St Christopher’s, Walworth. She was deeply committed to supporting those around her and, in February 2020, she became the licensed chaplain for LSHTM, joining the University of London Chaplaincy team, working with people of any faith or of no faith. In this she had found a way to bring together her research and ministry communities.
Deepthi made important scientific contributions to our understanding of sustainability for improved health and was a conscientious, kind, gentle, and committed colleague who will be greatly missed.