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Equity champion bids musical farewell to top journal

Poignant playlist marks end of Ṣẹ̀yẹ Abímbọ́lá’s nine-year stint as BMJ Global Health editor-in-chief

The founding editor-in-chief of BMJ Global Health has stepped down after what his supporters term a “transformative” nine years at the journal’s helm.

Ṣẹ̀yẹ Abímbọ́lá, a Nigerian based in Australia, announced his departure on social media alongside a BMJ Global Health Exit playlist on music streaming site Spotify, featuring songs including Lonely at the Top by Asake and Hotel California by The Eagles.

While he did not expand on his decision to step down in his post, he thanked the journal’s associate editors, editorial board, peer reviewers and “far and wide” friends. “I am more grateful than I can say,” he wrote.

Transformative tenure

The journal announced Abímbọ́lá’s decision on its website on 25 March, praising his “determination to shine a light on culturally complex issues” and his “refusal to shy away from politically sensitive areas”.

Since the journal’s launch in 2015, Abímbọ́lá has gained both supporters and critics as he has championed equity in global health research, advocating for practices that undermine the power and influence of researchers and citizens in developing countries over research conducted in their countries.

In 2021 he was one of the authors of a “consensus statement” signed by editors and researchers proposing concrete measures to combat helicopter science, where studies are conducted in low- and middle-income countries without proper involvement of local scientists.

BMJ editor-in-chief Kamran Abbasi said the journal was sorry to see him go. “Ṣẹ̀yẹ hasn’t only led a journal, he has led a whole community,” Abbasi said. “We are sorry that he is stepping down. But he has built a perfect platform for the next editor to lead thinking on global health.”

International praise

Dozens of prominent global health figures thanked Abímbọ́lá on social media for his work at the journal.

“It’s sad to see you step down, but you can hold your head high with pride. You have been a transformative force, not just at BMJ Global Health but in the [global health] community,” wrote Catherine Kyobutungi, director of the African Population Health Research Council in Nairobi, Kenya, on X, formerly Twitter.

Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, wrote: “Congratulations @seyeabimbola on leading one of the most provocative and original journals of our times, for your courage in challenging powerful interests so inimical to health, and for helping to redefine the very meaning of global health itself.”

Abímbọ́lá’s “unusual combination of vision and courage” created a unique space for thinking and writing, wrote Stephanie Topp, a health policy researcher based at James Cook University in Australia. She added: “Worth reflecting on that playlist, though.”