NEWS | EDUCATION | CAREER OF THE WEEK
Guest: Zione Luhanga
Position: Technician Assistant
Firm: (AU-PANVAC) in Debrezeit, Ethiopia.
This week’s guest, Zione Luhanga is describing his profession as more of somebody who is a qualified and certified healthcare professional who provides quality diagnostics with analytical and knowledge of laboratory medicine and technology by performing diagnostic analyses on body fluids as well as other specimens.
In this trying period globally where Corona Virus disease has wrecked havoc, Lab Technicians are one of the frontline soldiers who are working tirelessly in providing useful information that Medical Doctors and other researchers can be working on in combating this ‘monster.
That is not all. A Lab Technician performs other equally pivotal roles to mankind.
EM’s FRANCO MWACHANDE JNR finds out more about the career profile of one of Malawian Laboratory Technicians, ZIONE LUHANGA.
FM (Franco Mwachande) Who is Zione Luhanga?
ZL (Zione Luhanga) I’m a 26 year old lady originally from Traditional Authority Katumbi, Rumphi district.. I am last born son in the family of ten. Both of my parents are living in Hewe, Rumphi. I’m not married yet but I hope to one day.
Currently I’m working as a Laboratory and Technical Assistant within African Union Pan-African Veterinary Vaccine Centre (AU-PANVAC) in Debrezeit, Ethiopia.
FM: Briefly take us through your academic journey
ZL: I did my primary at Katowo in Rumphi from which I got selected to Chaminade Secondary school. I later joined Our Future Private secondary school where I completed my form four. I graduated with 8 points from the school in 2013. I got selected to Mzuzu University in 2014 where I pursued and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical sciences.
FM: So, who is a Laboratory Technologist?
ZL: Basically, a Lab Technologist Is a qualified and certified healthcare professional who provides quality diagnostics with analytical and knowledge of laboratory medicine and technology by performing diagnostic analyses on body fluids as well as other specimens. A Laboratory technologist can work at clinical laboratories in hospitals, reference laboratories, biotechnology laboratories, Research institutions and non-clinical industrial laboratories.
FM: What is your job description?
ZL: My day to day operations involve media preparation; performing Vaccine Quality Control tests, that is testing the vaccines for freedom of contamination, safety, potency, identity and stability; I also compile results and quality control reports, maintaining cell lines and vaccine seeds; checking viability of cells and liquid nitrogen levels; performing tasks as required in the reagent production laboratory and maintaining good laboratory practice and apply quality management system (ISO 9001 and 17025) standards.
FM: How did you find yourself in Ethiopia?
ZL: After completing my studies I joined Mzuzu Central Hospital as a Laboratory Technologist. I got so much experience working there, especially having an opportunity to learn from experienced people such as Frank Isaac Banda the Laboratory Manager, Dokani Ndovie, Yorum Chavula, Alfred Kaira, Rashid Kaseka and all the staff at Mzuzu Central Hospital from whom I am so much indebted because I got so much hands-on experience.
After my time at Mzuzu Central hospital, I got an opportunity through the African Union Youth Volunteer Corps program to work with the AU-PANVAC where I am currently working.
FM: How rewarding is this career?
ZL: A laboratory technologist provides vital information that Medical Doctors and researchers need to make diagnosis, cure disease or even save a life. Studies have shown that over 80% of decisions in hospitals especial when it comes to patient treatment and management, depend on laboratory result. So basically, this career is very much rewarding in that sense. There are also more career development opportunities in the field of Laboratory work because we have more specialized fields that one can venture into such as research, clinical laboratory and industrial laboratory, Microbiology, parasitology, molecular biology among a host of other fields. Outside Malawi, the field of Laboratory is very much well paying,
However, as a person, the outmost reward to me is the satisfaction I get when I see that a patient receives the appropriate treatment and management as a result of my quality diagnosis.
FM: Is this your professional destination?
ZL: Well! I don’t know, I wanted to be many things in life and I guess this is one of them, especially at the idea of being able to contribute to human health and well-being. You know from a younger age, I always had a compassionate heart towards people and especially in regard to healthcare and wellbeing.
That aside, I’ve always liked being in the world of science, being able to provide evidence based solutions that can impact and help in making informed decisions. So, I always wanted to work in the medical profession and especially laboratory work because I felt this way, I get closer to what my hearts wants and well-being hence my choice to study Biomedical sciences at Mzuzu university.
FM: What challenges do you face in line of duty?
ZL: Mostly routine work load, resource constraints, poor equipment quality and constant equipment failures, shortage and quality of laboratory supplies, inconsistent mentorship and trainings as you are aware that in the world of science things are constantly changing and to keep abreast of that, refresher courses are a must. Another challenge is that there seems to be low attention and commitment from top management as regards to laboratory work.
FM: Where can one be trained to be Laboratory Technician or technologist?
ZL: Mzuzu University, University of Malawi’s College of Medicine, Malawi College of Health Sciences, Malamulo College of Health Sciences and all offer Biomedical sciences and/or Medical Laboratory programs and so many other colleges and universities outside Malawi.