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Two towns, one goal

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27th September, 2022

Our regional pathology labs have been working hard throughout the pandemic to protect the communities they call home. Two senior scientists from our Dubbo and Lismore laboratories discuss how the COVID-19 response transformed their working lives and what drew them to pathology.

They’re almost 800 kms apart, but two senior sci­en­tists lead­ing NSW Health Pathol­o­gy region­al lab­o­ra­to­ries have been on the front­line of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic response to help pro­tect their local communities.

Sit­u­at­ed at the tail end of the Wilsons Riv­er in the North­ern Rivers region, sci­en­tists at NSW Health Pathology’s Lis­more lab­o­ra­to­ry are a wil­ful force of test­ing and analysis.

In 2020, the lab was test­ing the high­est num­ber of patient swabs out­side of its sis­ter lab­o­ra­to­ries in Syd­ney, turn­ing over about 300 to 400 COVID-19 diag­nos­tic tests a day.

At the helm was Senior Sci­en­tist and Micro­bi­ol­o­gy Lab Man­ag­er Glenn Hawkins.

Glenn leads a team of 10, made up of lab­o­ra­to­ry sci­en­tists and tech­ni­cians, work­ing day and night to deliv­er time­ly and accu­rate COVID-19 test results.

Sam­ples are received from col­lec­tion cen­tres as far south as Grafton, fur­ther inland and up to Tweed Heads.

With test­ing num­bers on the rise, Glenn sup­port­ed his team by prob­lem solv­ing any chal­lenges that arose , remain­ing hands on to sup­port the analy­sis of patient swabs and keep­ing a hap­py and uni­fied team work­ing at their peak.

Glenn start­ed his cur­rent role at NSW Health Pathol­o­gy in 2008, and pri­or to that was a senior sci­en­tist at Prince of Wales Lab­o­ra­to­ry, Rand­wick where he start­ed his train­ing in 1993.

“I have always enjoyed sci­ence and was for­tu­nate to get a start in micro­bi­ol­o­gy in Syd­ney after I fin­ished my degree,” Glenn said.

“I have loved the job ever since. I see pathol­o­gy as an inte­gral part of the front­line of the health sys­tem, even though it often oper­ates behind the scenes.

“My favourite part of this role as a lab­o­ra­to­ry man­ag­er is see­ing the fan­tas­tic team­work and ded­i­ca­tion the team has for deliv­er­ing time­ly COVID-19 results for the North­ern Rivers com­mu­ni­ty,” Glenn said.

Out west on the oth­er side of the Blue Moun­tains, is the town of Dubbo.

It is here that Monique Mintern heads up the local NSW Health Pathol­o­gy laboratory.

The Dub­bo lab, locat­ed at the heart of the Cen­tral West, has been test­ing COVID-19 sam­ples col­lect­ed from across a region com­pa­ra­ble to the size of some Aus­tralian states.

Monique says she was first inspired to pur­sue sci­ence as a career by her Year 8 sci­ence teacher who iden­ti­fied her pas­sion and tal­ent for science.

This led to a path­way into pathol­o­gy, and she was first intro­duced to the field dur­ing the ear­ly stages of her uni­ver­si­ty study.

Her career jour­ney has includ­ed her work­ing in Syd­ney, Dar­win, and Vic­to­ria pri­or to head­ing out to Dubbo.

“I am con­stant­ly amazed at the vital role pathol­o­gy plays in the day-to-day lives of so many peo­ple,” Monique said.

“It has evolved into a pow­er­ful tool used to deter­mine the health sta­tus of patients and is vital in ensur­ing patients receive the best treat­ment for their needs.

“I am excep­tion­al­ly pas­sion­ate about high qual­i­ty health­care ser­vices, par­tic­u­lar­ly in rur­al and region­al com­mu­ni­ties, as patients in these com­mu­ni­ties may be far from the facil­i­ties of met­ro­pol­i­tan sites, but their needs are no dif­fer­ent,” Monique explained.

“I believe we make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the ser­vices we pro­vide to our com­mu­ni­ties, and I would­n’t want it any oth­er way”.

Monique says hav­ing local exper­tise and capa­bil­i­ties to diag­nose COVID-19 cas­es quick­ly was vital to pro­tect the com­mu­ni­ty and curb the spread of the virus.


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