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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.